Daily Connections

There’s a common bit of advice floating around the Western esoteric community which goes like this…

You need to establish and maintain a daily magical practice.

The theory here is that if you don’t do magic every day, you’ll never get good at it. Most of the people offering this advice don’t come right out and say this, but it’s obviously implicit given the way they harp on the point.

As for me? The theory doesn’t match my experience.

I’ve gone weeks, or even months, without so much as lighting a candle or meditating, and when I eventually did get around to doing some magic, it worked the same as it always has.

If someone like me can slack off this much and not get rusty, I figure most everyone else can as well.

Once you’ve learned magic, it’s like riding a bike. You never really forget. At most, you’ll wobble for a few rotations of the pedals, then be on your way. Sure, daily discipline helps, especially when you’re first starting out, but is it a hard requirement for “getting good” and staying that way? Nah.

So, no, I don’t need to maintain a daily magical practice. But you know what? I am happier when I do.

My magical practice is very spirit-based, and it involves a lot of prayer, communication, and communion with what we might as well call “unseen forces.” On a typical day, this means I wake up, get some coffee in me, then I sit in prayer and reflection for a while.

What does “a while” mean, for me? Ten or fifteen minutes.

At night, I do much the same. I spend ten to fifteen minutes reflecting on the day’s events, saying a few prayers, then I turn out the lights and go to sleep.

I fit in other practices here and there, as needed or as I’m moved to do so, but mainly what I wrote above is what I do, day in and day out. It’s a simple, simple practice. In fact, I don’t even really think of it as a “practice” so much as it is connecting—either with the spirits, or with the “Otherworld” in a more general way.

When I’m making these daily connections, they absolutely, positively, wonderfully improve my mental and spiritual health.

There have been many, many times in my life where I’ve stepped away from any sort of magical practice—even abandoning this simple routine—and I quickly found myself feeling down. I lost energy, motivation, and focus. I felt unmoved, apathetic, and disconnected—not just from the spirits, but from everyone and everything.

On the flipside, those times where I’m keeping up with these connections, “touching base” with my spiritual path for even just a few minutes each day, I feel great! I’m happier, healthier, and energized. I’m more patient, friendly, and loving. The difference is really striking.

What’s the point of this post? Well, I’ve got two of them to make:

  1. Don’t set your watch by anyone else’s clock but your own. If you’ve only got time for a quick prayer before breakfast, or five-minutes of intentional breathing during your lunch break, let that be good enough. You don’t need to do three hours of ritual each day to be a good magician.
  2. You should try to do something every day to connect with your practice and your path, if for no other reason than you’ll probably feel better if you do.

As a final thought, I’ll share a bit of advice that I like to think about when my day looks like it’s about to run away from me, and I’m worried I won’t have time to make even a quick, simple connection with my magical practice.

In my opinion, every single thing you do, even the most mundane-seeming activity, can be seen as an act of magic. So, why not Do The Thing mindfully and with intention?

For instance, when you make your bed, try saying this…

Let these sheets and blankets clean

Keep me from unhappy dreams

Or, you know, words to that effect. I’m not a very good poet.

Have a blessed day!

Which method of divination should you learn?

I’ve written before about how important I believe divination is to successful magic, but what I haven’t done is to write about which divination method one should use. This is because the answer to that question is: it’s up to you.

In my experience, which system of divination someone uses is a deeply personal choice. Yes, accuracy should be the most important factor in selecting a method of divination, but there’s also the question of feel. When you’re looking for guidance, answers, or knowledge of the future, whichever system or method you’re using should be something you resonate with.

It’s also important to understand that some methods of divination are better suited to certain kinds of questions.

That’s kind of what I want to unpack in this post: which sorts of questions you’re most likely to ask, and which systems of divination might be most suited to answering them.

Asking questions, getting answers

To be clear, regardless of which method of divination we’re looking at, the purpose of them all is more or less the same. You ask questions, you get answers. These questions might be specific, such as: “Should I go to the party tonight?”

Other times, we’re looking for a more “general read” on a situation, such as: “What does the next month hold in store for me?”

The most important thing to remember about any system of divination is that it’s only really useful if it gives you meaningful, actionable answers to the questions you ask. The more well-suited a method of divination is to the question, the better your chances of getting actionable information.

This is why I’ve studied and practiced many different methods of divination over the years. While I do have my favorites, I’m not opposed to reaching for whichever method is best suited for the kind of question I need answered.

With that said, let’s get into it. We’ll look at the kinds of questions we usually want to answer. As you’re experimenting with different systems, consider each of these broad “classes” of questions, and try to sort out which systems are best for answering each.

Yes or no?

One common sort of question we’d like to get an answer to are “yes-or-no” questions. Should I go to the party? Will I get a raise? Should I start looking for a new apartment? These are all questions where we’re looking for a direct “yes” or “no” response.

Unfortunately, many of the more popular methods of divination seem to be almost comically bad at answering direct, yes-or-no questions. For instance, I know relatively few Tarot readers who will even try to get their decks to cut to the chase and answer these questions directly.

In my experience, horary astrology is the best method for getting a yes or no answer to a question.

In horary astrology, you cast a chart for the moment you ask a question, then you follow a set of interpretive rules to determine the answer. You’ll almost always get a definite positive or negative response, along with a fair bit of other, relevant information.

For example, let’s say you were to ask: “Will I get a raise?” You’ll get a “yes” or a “no.” Let’s say it’s a “yes.” You’ll probably get a sense of how large or small the raise will be, as well as a pretty good idea of the time when you’ll get the raise. If it’s a “no” response, you can probably sort out why you won’t get it by looking at other factors in the chart.

The one real drawback to horary astrology (and astrology in general) is that it’s a pretty complicated subject with a lot of nuance. It can take months or even years to get even halfway good at reading a chart.

This might be why the most common divination tool I see used for getting a simple yes-or-no response is the pendulum.

Do a Google search for pendulum divination and you’ll find hundreds of articles and videos on its use, but the main idea is quite simple. Hold the pendulum by its cord and let it hang straight down in front of you. Make sure you start off with the pendulum still, then ask: “Show me yes.” Watch what the pendulum does. After a little while, steady the pendulum again and ask: “Show me no.”

Repeat this a few times until you’ve “calibrated” the pendulum, then ask the questions you want answered.

I don’t do a lot of work with pendulums myself, but according to those who do, it usually only takes a few sessions before you start getting consistently good results.

Either or? Should I?

Another very common kind of question is the “either-or” question. In fact, many “yes-or-no” questions can be re-phrased as an “either-or” one, particularly if you are asking a question that begins with the words: “Should I…”

For example, consider the question: “Should I go to the party tonight?”

That could probably be better expressed as: “Should I go to the party tonight, or should I stay home?”

In a case like this, I find the Tarot to be exceptional. My go-to way of answering such a question is to perform a “three-versus-three” reading.

I throw down six cards. The first three are to answer the question “What if I go to the party tonight?” The second three are for “What if I stay home tonight?” I look carefully at both situations, and choose whether or not to go based on which set of cards looks the best.

Most “either-or” questions tend to be rooted in this idea of “should I.” These are tricky sorts of questions to answer with most of the divination methods I’m familiar with. Horary astrology doesn’t do well with “shoulds,” unless you can honestly re-phrase the question to be a direct yes-or-no.

For example, let’s say you ask: “Should I invest in my friend’s business, or should I hold onto my money?”

Assuming your main interest in asking this question is growing your wealth, the question you’re really asking is: “Will I make a profit if I invest in my friend’s business?”

Horary astrology can answer that question quite easily.

Natal astrology can also help us a bit with “should” questions, although in a more roundabout way. By looking at your birth chart, and taking into account the current and upcoming transits to it, you can get a reasonable picture of which areas of your life are likely to be easier, and which are likely to be more challenging.

For out investment question above, let’s say that you look at your chart and upcoming transits and see what looks like a pretty hairy period of financial difficulties in your near future. You might want to set that “extra” money aside.

When?

Questions involving the timing of events can be among the most frustrating.

“When will I get married?”

“When will I find a job?”

“How long will it take for my business to take off?”

I already mentioned that horary astrology can usually give you a good idea of when events are likely to occur, but using other divination methods to get answers to a “when” question can be tricky.

In my experience, there are two broad approaches to answering these questions, and both come with drawbacks.

The first method involves trying to get a specific time or date, or at least a very narrow range (down to a few days or hours, depending on the nature of the question). This really is a question horary astrology. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never gotten a reliable, specific time with anything else.

Another method you could try is to use Lenormand cards. This is an oracle deck, as opposed to the Tarot, and some people I know have had good success in getting precise timing out of it. Myself? I only use Lenormand on rare occasions, and when I’ve tried to get a time, it just doesn’t pan out. Things might be different if I really took the time to “master” the deck, but I just haven’t.

The second method of getting a time involves choosing a reasonable one as a starting point, and then asking whether the event will happen before the chosen time, or after it. You can then try for a yes-or-no answer, or try to ask a more general question with an eye toward that time.

For example, let’s say you’re unemployed and running out of money. You’ve put in for a number of jobs, have some good prospects. You want to know when to expect a job offer. Let’s pick a time—say, two weeks.

You could simply ask “Will I get a job within two weeks?” Assuming you have a good system for answering yes-or-no questions, you should get the information you’re looking for.

Taking the more general approach, you could ask “Show me what my work situation will be like in two weeks.” This tends to be the approach I take when using the Tarot.

One more thing I should point out is that, when using a system other than horary astrology for “when” questions, I usually get better results when I use “natural” events for timing. What I mean by this is, instead of asking if something will happen before “next Thursday,” I’ll ask if it will happen before “the next full Moon,” or “in the summer.”

Try it both ways and see what happens.

Where?

Sometimes you’ll want to know either where something will happen or where something is. These questions both involve the word “where,” but they’re very different, and they usually benefit from different approaches.

To be clear, “where should I move to,” is one kind of question. “Where are my car keys,” is another one entirely.

For the first kind of “where” question, you can usually sort out the answer doing variations on “either-or.” There are also some specific forms of divination which are tailored toward finding places, such as locational astrology.

When you’re trying to find a lost object (or a person, or a pet), again, horary astrology is a pretty decent choice. It can sometimes be a little tricky to find things using horary, because the methods involved usually give you a list of possibilities which don’t always narrow things down satisfactorily. For instance, if you’re looking for your missing cat, you might get an answer that it’s “a short distance to the north of your house, inside or under something.”

Well, that’s certainly a start, but it’s not exactly “sleeping under your neighbor’s car.”

Despite not using it very often, I’ve actually had a surprising amount of success with the Lenormand deck for “where” questions.

For example, maybe I’ve misplaced my keys. Well, there’s a “Key” card in the Lendormand deck. I’ll take out my Lenormand cards, shuffle them, and then look through the deck for the “Key.” If I find it between the “Book” and the “Letter” cards, I’ll go search my desk. If I find it between “Garden” and “Lillies,” I’ll go outside and check my flower beds.

It doesn’t always work, but sometimes the answers you get from Lenormand really can be that literal.

Getting a general “read” on a situation

We’ve covered several different types of “specific” questions, but in my mind, it’s the “general” sort of question or reading that’s the most useful. I find getting my head around a situation as a whole to be more helpful (and easier) than attempting a “surgical strike” for only the specific answer I might be interested in right then.

The answer to “will I get the promotion,” is less valuable to me than “show me my work situation for the spring.”

Astrology is an excellent tool for this, particularly natal astrology. I can pull up a birth chart, check the current and upcoming transits, and get a good sense of how things are going to go. This is especially true when I want to see which areas of a person’s life are likely to go well in the near future, which areas might be more challenging, and how these areas will affect and influence each other.

And, yes, the Tarot is my very next choice. I usually stick with a five-card spread when doing this sort of reading, but for particularly complex or confusing situations, I’ll use a full Celtic Cross.

Another method of divination which can be used similarly (and which I haven’t touched on yet) is geomancy. Put very simply, geomancy involves creating a series of figures using lines or points either drawn on paper or in sand, then arranging those figures into a kind of “astrologically-themed” chart. You then read this chart according to a set of fairly simple rules.

This is far from an adequate description of geomancy, and I encourage you to look into it yourself, especially if you don’t find yourself drawn to the Tarot. Geomancy was one of the most common forms of divination during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, prior to the rise of the Tarot and cartomancy in general.

Finding what works for you

In case it isn’t obvious, even in this long post I haven’t covered all of the types of questions you’re likely to encounter. For instance, I didn’t even touch upon “who” or “how” or “why.” Whenever you’re experimenting with a system, you’ll want to throw all of these kinds of questions (and more) against the wall and see what “sticks.”

As I wrote way back at the beginning of this overly-long post, don’t go looking for one system which will fit every situation. In my opinion, such a system just doesn’t exist.

Instead, you should study and experiment with several different methods of divination, and learn not only how each of them works, but also which kinds of questions or situations they’re best suited to. You should also consider whether or not you personally resonate with a system.

Some people just don’t like the Tarot. Other people find astrology too complex and confusing. These methods work very well for me, but they’re not for everyone.

Good luck on your search!

Magical house clearing steps and tips

One question I’m often asked is how someone might go about cleansing or clearing their home of “uninvited guests” or “unpleasant energies.” Sometimes people ask me how to clear a home they’ve just purchased or rented. At other times, the person is asking because they feel that their home has suddenly become unwelcoming or even outright haunted.

Since winter is on its way out in my neck of the woods, and many folks are starting to think about spring cleaning, I figured it was a good time to write a post about this.

How do you clean and prepare a new home when you move in? How do you maintain that home while you live there? How do you “evict” unwanted entities or energies?

Step right up, and I’ll try to answer these questions!

Don’t clear a house unless you have to

Right off the bat, I should share with you that my first rule for house clearing is…don’t.

In almost every home cleansing situation I’ve been asked about, I advise a gentle, nice approach to the spirits and energy of the home. I don’t recommend aggressive, “nuke the site from orbit” methods of home clearing unless there is a real and present danger of harm to the people living there.

This is because a large part of my magical and spiritual practice is working with spirits, and seeing them as persons not much different from myself or other living humans. I treat them with respect, understanding, and patience whenever possible.

Because I approach spirits with this attitude, I usually see unruly entities for what they typically are: confused and frustrated. If I can connect with the spirit, and “settle them down,” there’s no reason to evict them. And let’s face it, evicting someone from their home without good cause is just plain rude.

Shopping for a new home

I’m going to start from the very beginning of your home-owning/apartment-renting journey. What things should you look for (and look out for) when shopping for a new home, and what should you bring along for the walk-through?

Keep the rain off your head

First, let’s talk preparation. I never leave my house without wearing a hat. In many, many magical and spiritual traditions, the act of covering one’s head is a protective one. It’s like wearing a hard hat to a construction site. It’s just good practice overall, in my opinion, and it’s a fairly good way to keep “stuff” off of you when going through a strange house or apartment.

Unfortunately, some people (particular among the older generations) consider wearing a hat or other head covering indoors to be rude. If that’s the case, you can forgo the headgear in favor of cleaning yourself off after you leave.

Dust yourself off

I use Florida water in my practice quite a bit. It’s a kind of universal solvent or cleaner which is excellent for clearing away unwanted energy and getting “hitchhikers” off of you. It’s employed by many people in many different traditions for just this purpose. Also? I like the smell.

You can either use a little bit straight from the bottle, or you can mix it with water and put it in a small spritzer or old hand sanitizer bottle. Either way, when you leave an unfamiliar home or apartment, rub a little on your hands, a bit on the back of your neck, and wave your hands about your head (or “through your aura”) to clear away anything that might have stuck to you.

Your first walk-through

Now that you’re equipped, and you’ve shown up to view your prospective home, what should you look for?

Mainly, just trust your instincts. Look through the place just as anyone would. Does it have enough room? Does it get enough light? Is it clean? Is it within your budget.

If the house or apartment seems like a good fit from a purely mundane perspective, odds are pretty good that you won’t get much in the way of paranormal problems. Just be sure to use all of your five, “natural” senses when exploring the place, especially your senses of smell and touch.

If the house has an odd “funk” to it, or smells “off,” that’s usually a sign to be a little more cautious. Similarly, if certain rooms or walls feel especially cold, or seem to have a “clamminess,” that should be another red flag. Neither of these are deal breakers, per se, but they are things to keep in mind.

Overall, though, what you’re looking for is how does the house feel to you? Does it seem welcoming? Can you easily see yourself living there a long time? If you’re planning to move into this place with others, such as your family, do they all feel the same way?

Now, if you’re reading this post, it’s probably fair to assume that you have an interest in magic, and may have done some work on cultivating clairvoyance or other, similar senses. In general, I recommend doing your best to subdue such senses when you’re first checking out a possible new home. Give your “mundane” senses some time to work, and only open yourself up once they seem to give the “all clear.”

The bottom line is this: if a house or apartment doesn’t seem right to you, trust your intuition, and keep shopping.

Do your homework

This should probably go without saying, but always, always do your homework when looking for a new place to live. Ask the realtor (or building manager, or previous owner) about the place’s history. Do web searches for the address. If it’s an older building, take a trip to the town’s historical society and see if someone can’t fill you in on the location’s past.

Depending on where you live, certain information must be disclosed to you as a matter of law. For instance, in most places, if someone was murdered in a house, the real estate agent and/or previous owner are required to tell you this.

That said, not every “bad thing” which can happen in a home falls under such laws. As with almost any purchase, follow the advice of “buyer beware” and get all of the facts you can before committing to a sale or rental agreement.

Moving day

Okay, assuming your house-hunting/apartment-hunting experience went well, and you’re about to move into a new place, what now?

Your right to bear arms

I’m going to let you in on what seems to be a “big secret.” I’m not sure why it’s a secret, but here goes. When you close on a house sale, or you’re accepted and cleared to move into an apartment, you receive two phenomenally powerful magical items.

You receive a deed or lease, and you receive a key.

The deed or lease is a written document which details your rights and responsibilities regarding the property, and it should include one or more signatures. In magical terms, this is a contract or pact. It provides you with not only legal proof that you belong there, and have possession of the place, but also metaphysical or magical proof of the same.

As for the key, it is literally an object which permits you to pass through the place’s “defenses” (the locked door), but also gives you the ability to setup or activate said defenses.

You can look at these two items like the crown and scepter of a king or queen, the tools or regalia of someone who is the rightful regent of the land that is your new home. No amount of incense, chanting, or “positive vibes” will come even close to equaling the power held in these two objects. Walk softly, but carry these big sticks.

And by carry them, I mean walk through your new home with these in hand and introduce yourself.

Explain yourself

I mentioned above that my magical practice is spirit-focused. This means that I spend most of my day interacting with entities which are either formerly-living humans or other-than-human. Take that as you will, but for our purposes here I want to stress to you a fact that most people either aren’t aware of, or don’t give enough credit to: your house is a spirit.

Let me share a personal story with you.

Many years ago, my daughter and I moved back into my parents’ house. This was partly because the economics made sense, but also because my parents were growing older and I wanted to be close to them and support them.

One morning, in October of 2018, I was using the bathroom when my daughter started banging on the door. “Nana fell down!” she shouted.

As it turned out, my mother had suffered a massive stroke.

Paramedics arrived, a helicopter got involved, and after three weeks in the hospital my mother passed on. It was hard for all of us, but we pulled through.

Two years ago, I was sitting in meditation and “journeying” about the house. That is to say, I was exploring my home with what some might call my “astral” or “ethereal” form. Everything seemed more or less fine until I got to my parents’ bedroom, where I perceived an odd shadow lingering by my mother’s side of the bed.

This shadow didn’t seem particularly hostile or dangerous, but I’m not exactly keen on unexplained entities loitering about my home. So, I reached out to it.

A brief conversation ensued, and I realized that this “shadow” was actually the spirit of the house. Why was it concentrated there, looking so dark and negative?

It missed “the nice old lady” who took “such good care” of it, and it didn’t know why she hadn’t been back.

Very few spirit contacts have floored me as much as this one.

My mother was a fastidious housekeeper, and always made sure our home was both spotless and in good repair. She loved this house, took pride in making it our home, and as it turned out, the house noticed and appreciated this, too.

No one, not even me, had taken the time to explain to the house what had happened when my mother was called away.

I sat with the spirit of my house for quite some time after this. I explained what had happened, how my mother would not be returning, and both of us grieved for her loss.

This is what I mean by “explain yourself.” The house or apartment you are moving into might not have any idea what is happening to it. People were living there, those people went away, and now you’re there. Take some time to sit with the spirit of the house and tell it your story. Why are you there? What happened to the people who were there before? What do you intend to do with the place?

If you can connect with and befriend the spirit of the house or building or apartment, you’ll have a much easier time not only living there, but dealing with any “unwelcome guests.”

I spoke above about the power of the deed and the key. These are symbols of responsibility and obligation. Show them to the house, make your introductions, then commit yourself to looking after your new home in exchange for it looking after you.

Deep cleaning

Before your move anything into a new house or apartment, give it a proper cleaning.

The usual rule with such cleanings is that you start from the highest point of the house, then clean from top to bottom and back to front. Break out the broom and really go to town. Maybe the house is spotless when you move in, but even if so, give it a once-over yourself.

Top floor to ground floor, basement to ground floor, back to front. Get all of the debris, dust, and detritus out of the place and outside. You might make a “floor wash” using some water with a dash of Florida water mixed in, but I usually reserve this for when things are becoming “challenging” (see below). Regardless, clean the place and while you’re doing so keep speaking to the house spirit.

“Oh, I’m cleaning you out. Doesn’t that smell nice? Let’s get all of this dust out of you. You’re such a beautiful home!”

It might seem silly to speak out loud to your house this way, but trust me—it works. Do everything you can to show the house (or apartment) that you mean to take good care of it, and to love it, and it will return the favor.

Once you have cleaned the whole place, it’s time to break out the incense.

Good vibes only

I could write an entire blog post (or even a full magical course) on the use of incense. Suffice it to say, after you’ve swept and mopped your new home, you’d do well to burn a little frankincense. This is a good, non-offensive, “elevating” incense.

When you burn Frankincense, the goal isn’t to dispel or drive anything away. Rather, the goal is to “raise the vibrations” of the place you’re in, so to speak. That is to say, you’re making the environment around you exceptionally positive, and in doing so, most anything negative is going to want to leave, and to leave quickly.

Whether you’re using a stick, cone, or a bit of resin on a charcoal disk, it doesn’t matter. Light up some frankincense and walk it from room to room, expressing (out loud) a desire to elevate the space and make everyone and everything within happy, positive, and vibrant if they mean no harm.

And here, with that caveat “if they mean no harm,” we get to our first bit of “filtration.” We’re wishing “good vibes” upon everything in the space, so long as they wish good vibes upon us.

Embrace the mellow

For the first week or two, and ideally the first full Lunar cycle, do your best to give off “good vibes only” in your new home. Do what you can to limit yelling, arguing, or fighting within your new place’s walls.

The goal is for you and the other occupants of the home to continue “raising the vibrations” of the place through your actions. Moving to a new place can be stressful, so this part of the process might be a little challenging, so just do your best.

One thing you can do to help ease the strain on your relationships, and cultivate a peaceful atmosphere, is to sprinkle a small amount of dried basil in the corners of each room. Basil is a remarkable plant ally which works at the level of relationships: it helps to create and maintain peaceful and warm interactions.

Another thing you could add to the mix is a bit of lavender. Lavender is used in many traditions as a way to mellow out an environment, to the point where the scent of lavender is known to be a wonderful and natural sleep aid. Small bouquets of the fresh herb are best, but lavender essential oil also works well.

Some people use essential oil diffusers, but I find that one or two drops of the oil on a folded washcloth placed on a shelf in the bedroom to be just as effective. Start with just one drop, though, and see how potent the scent is. The first time I used lavender oil in this way, I used five or six drops and the smell was rather overpowering.

Regular maintenance

Now that you’re all settled into your new home, what’s next? Assuming everything seems fine, the vibe is good, and you’re not experiencing any disturbing or unwanted activity, things are pretty easy.

Keep the house clean

There’s a rather bad habit among magically-inclined folks in the “West” to consciously (or even unconsciously) separate the “magical” from the “mundane.” That is to say, magical rituals are things which only happen in special circles or rooms, or at special times, or require special tools.

If you look at all of the various magical and spiritual practices found throughout the world, you’ll find that this is not the most common view. Rather, most people and cultures see very little if any separation between magic and the mundane tasks they undertake throughout their daily lives.

This is the view that I take myself, and it’s why I see the “simple” act of cleaning one’s house to be an important magical ritual. You are literally cleansing and clearing your home of unwanted detritus! Ritualize the act if you must, but every time you clean your home, understand that you are cleaning it magically just as you are cleaning it physically.

More importantly, though, if you aren’t keeping your house clean, debris and dirt of all kinds could start to creep in.

Fix things when or before they break

Household maintenance also includes putting oil on that squeaky door, or fixing the faucet when it starts to leak. Remember, your house has (or is) a spirit, and you can think of the walls, floors, and fixtures as its body. You shouldn’t let these little “injuries” pile up, any more than you should let your own body fall into disrepair.

Not attending to these problems in a timely manner puts you and your home at risk of infection.

Protective objects

Up until this point, everything I’ve suggested is in line with the idea that you have moved into a new place, are trying to build a good relationship with the spirit of the house, and are doing your best to peacefully co-exist with any other spirits which might happen to be there.

In my opinion, this is the best way to inhabit a place. It acknowledges that these other spirits are also persons deserving of love and respect just as you are.

Now we come to the first bit of “potentially-disruptive” magic: the use of protective objects.

Any magically-protective object or amulet has the potential to be viewed as a “challenge.” Whether we are talking about horseshoes over the front door, hands of Fatima, Evil Eye amulets, God’s Eyes, or labyrinths hung by the entryway, sometimes spirits can see these items as “lines in the sand.” And, very rarely, you’ll encounter spirits that try to step over these lines just to see if they can.

I say very rarely, because I have almost never encountered such spirits directly. In fact, there’s only one account that I’m personally aware of where someone hung an item in their home for protection (in this case, a labyrinth painted on a mirror that they’d purchased at a garage sale) and began to suffer some ill effects—and these effects were quite minor. They started misplacing small items, like their car keys or pens, and everyone in the house began to experience a bit of “brain fog,” where they hadn’t had any before.

Even in this case, though, I don’t think the act of putting up a protective object caused the issue. Rather, I think it’s more likely that the labyrinth itself came with an uninvited guest or unwanted energy. Once they got rid of it, everything went back to normal.

That said, just be aware of the extremely outside possibility that decorating your home with protective items could stir things up.

If you do decide to go this route, which sorts of items can you use? I listed several above you could look into, although some of them have cultural connections you may want to investigate before trying them on for size. If none of the ones I wrote of seem a good fit, a Google search or two will almost certainly give you a dozen more ideas.

Use what you feel is best, and what seems to be most in line with your own magical practice.

The house as protective object

I should also point out here that, of all the spirits in the house, the spirit of the house can be seen as sort of “king of the hill.” In other words, if you have a good relationship with the house spirit, and you keep the house clean and in good order, it is itself a powerful protective “object.”

You can think of it a bit like a fortress, guarded by a very formidable ally.

Just be sure to keep talking with it, especially if you’re planning on making any big changes to it. I can’t even count the number of people who have began a remodeling project and suddenly started experiencing disturbing paranormal phenomena.

“Oh, you decided to take out two walls and tear out the old fireplace? Did you ask the house how it felt about that?”

I’m not saying that you have to get the house spirit’s permission for every little change you make, but I mean come on! If someone started randomly cutting your hair without warning, and without your permission, I’m pretty sure you’d consider that rude.

Before you embark on a remodeling project, or hanging up wallpaper, or painting, or whatever, talk to the house. Let the house know what you’re planning on doing, why you’re planning to do it, and at least get an idea of what it thinks about it.

And you know what? Involving the house in such decisions is really, really rewarding. Not sure what color to paint the dining room? Grab your swatches, sit on the floor of that room, and ask the house for its help. Treat the swatches like an oracle deck, or use a pendulum to ask the house yes or no.

Maybe you and the house have a favorite color in common.

In case of emergency

Apart from the slim chance that something might take offense at the amulet above your door, everything we’ve discussed up until now has almost no possibility of causing problems where there weren’t any.

Here, we start to cross that line.

Spooky phenomena

Let’s get something straight: unexpected spirit contact is almost always disturbing for people who aren’t used to it. You’re home alone and hear footsteps walking down the hall? Odds are pretty good that’s going to freak you out. Ditto goes for waking up in the middle of the night because you feel something watching you from the corner of your bedroom.

In the immortal words taken from the front cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: don’t panic.

If things start to feel a little “spooky” in your home, unless it’s immediately violent or obviously malevolent, don’t automatically assume that it means a hostile spirit or destructive energy has moved in. Spirits come and go for all sorts of reasons. Remember, they are persons. They could just be passing through. Or they could be curious. Or maybe they sense someone in the house is “magically-operant” and either want to say “hello” or are looking to establish a relationship.

The best emotion you can embrace when you sense things getting “weird” is curiosity.

Make contact

Try talking with whatever it is that’s decided to show up. Maybe this means literally speaking out loud to it and trying to hear or feel out its response. Maybe this means throwing some Tarot cards and asking who it is and why it’s there. Or maybe you prefer to work with a pendulum.

Whatever your chosen form of divination or spirit communication, use it to try to engage with whatever is making its presence known.

As part of this process, it’s a good idea to establish and communicate some healthy boundaries. What kind of communication are you open to? What sort of behavior will you permit? What do you not want to see or experience?

A good rule or guideline to follow here is to be polite but also firm. Again, this is your home, they are a guest, and like any guest they should be expected to observe some reasonable etiquette. Keep in mind what I wrote above, though: all spirit contact can feel “spooky.”

There’s not much a discorporate entity can do about that sort of thing.

In my experience, it’s relatively rare to get a clear and unambiguous conversation out of a spirit on your first, second, or even fifth try. However, after a session or two, you should have a pretty good idea of the spirit’s intentions and, more importantly, whether or not you are okay with it hanging around.

If you’re more or less fine with it staying, clearly set the same expectations you did when you first moved into the place. They can remain if they “cause no harm,” etc., etc.

Also? Don’t forget to consult with the spirit of the house, too. Remember, the house itself has a significant say over what happens and who (or what) gets to be within its walls. See what it has to say, and ask it look after (and keep an eye on) your new guest.

Mellowing them out

If the activity in your house starts to become a bit more intense than you’d like, or becomes too disturbing for your taste, the next thing I suggest is trying to mellow it out. Again, I’m a fan of “live and let live” whenever possible. So unless things are getting violent or overtly malevolent, start gently.

Burn frankincense in each of the rooms, and follow this up with lavender. Play some peaceful, uplifting, and happy music. Bring in some fresh flowers. Speak with your housemates and institute another temporary “good vibes only” policy for a few days.

The idea here, once again, is to create an extremely positive and peaceful environment.

In nine out of ten situations, this is enough to either make the spirit calm down and behave, or else make it decide to move on of its own volition.

Polite house clearing

If you can’t calm the spirit down, and it doesn’t seem to want to leave on its own, it might be time to send it on its way.

Clean your house just as you did when you first moved in, and this time add a “floor wash” to the mix. You’ll find a ton of recipes online for this, but honestly all you need is a little Florida water in a bucket of water. Wipe down your woodwork and baseboards with this mixture after dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming.

While you’re cleaning, speak directly to the spirit almost like you would a person you’re breaking up with. “Sorry, it’s just not working out. It’s time for you to go. Depart in peace.” Whatever words seem right. Also, talk to the spirit of the house and make sure it understands that your guest needs to be checking out.

As the very last step of the cleaning, take the trash (including whatever’s in your vacuum cleaner) outside through the front door. When you do this, politely but firmly say goodbye to the unwelcome guest and bid it farewell.

Then, follow the process I wrote above for “mellowing them out.” Reset the space with as much positive energy as you can.

The “nuclear” option

I have only ever recommended this approach to house clearing once, and even then I wasn’t convinced that it was strictly necessary. If you follow all of the advice I wrote above, you should almost never have a need to do even the “polite house clearing.” And in almost every case, that polite approach is more than enough to get whatever is causing trouble out the door.

However, if you’re experiencing violent or clearly malevolent activity and need it to be done with once and for all, this method is what I recommend to others.

You will need: a stoneware or other heavy-duty ceramic bowl which can handle heat (and you are willing to throw away); self-lighting charcoal you can burn incense on; sea salt; rosemary; asafoetida; dragon’s blood; and a bottle of water. You’ll also want to be carrying your house key and your deed or lease.

You’ll be using the bowl, filled with sea salt, as a safe way to hold and burn the charcoal and incense as you carry it around with you. You’ll be throwing it away after using it for this ritual. Do not keep it around.

Rosemary is a common herb which can be burned to drive away malevolent spirits, particularly the dead. It’s perfectly fine to grab this from your cupboard, or the baking aisle of your grocery market.

Asafoetida is another herb which is also traditionally burned to drive away malevolent spirits, particularly those of a demonic nature. You might be able to find it in the “Asian” food aisle of your grocery store, but it can be found online if needed.

Dragon’s blood is a type of plant resin which is one of the most powerful incenses for exorcising or cleansing a space. Most “new age” or “metaphysical” stores carry it, but online ordering is also a possibility.

Mix these three substances together in roughly equal parts. You won’t need a ton of this mixture, but you will need enough to burn some in every room.

Now, for the ritual.

First, if you live with other people (or pets), have them leave the house for the duration of this process.

Next, go through the “polite house clearing” as described above, though hold off on doing the “mellowing them out” bit. You’ll do that after the process below. Not only does this help set the stage for the “big show” to follow, but it gives the unruly spirit one last chance to leave before things get serious.

Next, open all of the windows and doors in your home. There are two reasons for this. First, the incense is very pungent (it really, really stinks). Second, you’re giving anything stuck or trapped in the house a chance to flee.

Tell the spirit of the house that you are about to drive away the entity causing all the trouble, and ask the house for its help. If you’ve been cultivating a strong, positive relationship with the house, it should be more the willing to help you evict the troublemaker.

Fill the bowl with the sea salt, which will help to insulate your hands from the heat of the charcoal. Light the charcoal, then burn some of the incense in each of the rooms. Make sure to fill the house with the smoke, but not to do it so much that you’re setting off fire alarms or making yourself or others sick.

While fumigating the house, firmly and loudly tell the unwanted spirit to get out, using as much “colorful” and “vulgar” language as you like.

Seriously. At this stage, you are past the point of politeness. If you’ve followed my advice so far, you gave the entity multiple chances to behave, or to leave on good terms. Now it’s time to throw the thing out on its ass.

Once you’ve gone through the whole house with the incense, and your best “I’m tired of your crap” attitude, bring the bowl outside, douse it well with the water, and throw the whole mess in the trash, preferably well away from your property.

After this, return to your house and do all of the “mellowing out” steps again. Good vibes only, etc. etc.

It’s also a good idea to do whatever personal cleansing ritual you have, such as taking a spiritual bath or even just using a bit of Florida water on yourself like I wrote about above.

Final thoughts

If I have only one rule to share when it comes to relating with the spirits in your home, it’s this: “Be nice, until it’s time to not be nice.” And yes, that’s a quote from the movie Roadhouse.

I work and play with spirits all the time. Some I get along with, some I don’t, and all of them are persons. I do my absolute best to treat them all with love, respect, and a desire to mutually co-exist and flourish.

In my experience, this is the best way to not only handle “troublesome” spirits, it’s also the best way to prevent spirits from becoming “troublesome” in the first place.

(Re)establishing relationships

For me, this week has been about re-establishing relationships. In particular, that has meant reconnecting with spirits and practices which I’ve let “slide” over the last few months. Yesterday, Mercury’s Day, that involved me setting up the altar to Saint Expedite, which had once (and once again) lived on my sewing machine.

It’s simple, but them I’m a simple guy.

I’d write up a detailed description of Saint Expedite, including how I set up my altar and how to work with him, but honestly? Just read this post over at Sphere + Sundry for the low-down. I couldn’t do a better job of explaining it, so I won’t try to.

I will explain, though, why I work with him.

Most of the practical enchantment work I do for myself or others falls under the category of “Protection and Long-Term Goal Attainment.” It’s about establishing a solid foundation for the present, and slowly building toward the future. The key word there is slowly. The approach I take is one of gentle nudges and careful moves. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that.

Unfortunately, sometimes Stuff Happens, or needs to happen, quickly. For example, you’re getting kicked out of your apartment and need a place to stay. Or your car just fell apart and you need to find a new one.

That’s where Saint Expedite comes in. It’s kind of his whole thing to not only make Stuff Happen, but to make it happen in record time.

To be sure, there are other ways to go about making magic “go fast,” and I often throw them at the problem, too, but Saint Expedite has a knack for getting things done with the sort of haste I still find kind of unbelievable.

He’s a good friend to have around, because even if you don’t presently need his services, who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Two Wizards

When I was about twelve years old, my parents dragged me off to a used book store we liked to visit, and I was in a mood.

I don’t remember why, but for some reason I’d decided to be a sulking little brat that day, and had zero interest in going anywhere. That’s kind of weird, when I think about it. I loved that store. The shelves strained under the weight of books piles on books, and every corner of the place had at least two tall stacks of tomes leaning precariously.

I’m sure if a fire marshal had ever visited the place, it would have been shut down in an instant. Then again, maybe they were a book lover, too.

Anyway, my parents insisted I come along for the trip I didn’t want to take, and I made various unhappy “harumphing” sounds in the back seat the whole way there. Once we’d arrived, I dove out of the car, probably slammed the door, and went inside to find the deepest corner of the store in which to hide and pout.

As it turned out, the deepest corner of the store was home to the occult section. And just about five minutes after stepping into it, my life changed forever.

I know that’s a cliche, but honestly there’s no other way to describe it. I walked into the aisle crammed with esoterica, found myself drawn to a mustard-colored paperback, and pulled it off the shelf.

It was a book on the Tarot.

I don’t remember thumbing through it in the store, though I must have. I do remember that it was two dollars. I took the book, went in search of my mother, and sheepishly asked if I could have it. She glanced at the cover, then said “sure” without even blinking.

There’s no real way to explain how remarkable her unremarkable reaction was. First, since I’d been so miserable on the trip, it was somewhat of a miracle that my mother let me have anything that day. Second, while I’d never heard her disapprove of the Tarot or other “occult-type” things, she’d never glowingly endorsed them either. The fact she didn’t even question my interest was a little odd.

Also? She didn’t even ask the price. She just said yes.

On the car ride back, I didn’t sulk. I was too busy reading the book I’d just acquired. And once we’d gotten home, I dove out of the car again and spent the rest of the day in my room, reading the whole thing by that evening.

The next morning, I asked my mother if I could get a deck of Tarot cards. Once again, she replied with a “sure,” and asked no questions. That afternoon, I had a copy of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, and started re-reading the book.

Over the next thirty-plus years, the Tarot has come in and out of my life. I’ve set it aside, picked it up, and put it down again. Over time, the cycles grew shorter—I spent more time with the Tarot than without it.

Now, I’m forty-four, and the Tarot is as interwoven into my life as anything else. It’s my go-to tool for divination, and central to my magical practice.

And, if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s pretty much the whole reason I began to study magic in the first place.

I’ve spent thousands of hours in the occult sections of various bookstores since that first day, and even more thousands of hours learning and practicing every form or approach to magic I’ve been exposed to.

To be fair, I was never very disciplined about my studies. It was only about seven or eight years ago that I began to seriously and consistently practice magic, and it was only about five years ago that I decided to make magic my “full-time job.”

In some respects, at some points in my life, I’ve thought of this as a bit of a waste. If I’d been more “mature” or less “lazy,” I’d be able to straight-facedly claim an additional twenty years of experience and study. I like how that sounds, of course, but more importantly the idea has me looking ahead, staring down the “back nine” of my life, and wondering if I have time enough to learn everything I want.

The answer is “no,” of course. Magic is infinite, and no one can ever learn it all, in one human lifetime or a hundred.

Anyway, I was thinking these thoughts the other day, while trying to ignore my to-do list, and I found myself considering the “Magician” of the Tarot.

In the ever-popular Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Magician is modeled closely after the ceremonial magicians familiar to anyone who’s come upon the “Western Magical Tradition.” They’re a serious-looking character, with their wand upraised as they stand before an altar bearing the traditional four “weapons” associated with each of the four elements.

The Magician here definitely never skipped classes or blew off their homework. You can easily imagine that their house resembles a library more than it resembles a home, and I suspect they can rattle off “correspondences” from dawn to dusk.

Then, there’s “Le Bateleur.” This is the “Magician” as represented in the earlier Tarot de Marseilles. We can clearly see some similarities here, which point to the evolution of the card, but there are enough differences to be intriguing.

First, the name of the card, “Le Bateleur.” This is a French term which means a street performer, tumbler, or juggler depending on who and when you’re asking. “Juggler” is interesting, as it’s a term that was sometimes used to describe magicians, and the term “jugglery” is usually defined as “manipulation or trickery, especially to achieve a desired end.”

Suffice it to say, magicians haven’t always been held in high regard by mainstream society. And there’s a casual, almost carefree air to the Bateleur that we don’t see in the Magician.

Not only is it hard to imagine the Bateleur as a hard-working student of Super Serious Esoteric Mysteries with a house full of books, they might very well be homeless. A drifter, roaming from town to town, plying their trade—at least until the fine, upstanding citizens of the town drive them off.

When I first came upon the Tarot de Marseilles about six years ago, the appearance of the Bateleur (and its contrast to the Magician of the RWS deck) was what struck me the most. Here was a wizard I could relate to.

I don’t mean to say that I consider myself a shiftless drifter to be driven out of the country (although I do like the idea of living the “van life” someday). Rather, I mean that if you look back at old stories about magicians, wizards, and witches, you’ll find that, yes, they often liked their magical tomes and had great power, but they were also apt to be tricksters—and maybe even a little bit mad.

Look into the literary history of Merlin, if you don’t believe me.

The point of all this is to say that as I’ve been working myself to exhaustion these last few weeks, more and more I’ve come to appreciate my own evolution as a wizard. A slow, wandering drift from Magician to Bateleur. A leaving behind of memorized correspondences and fixed rituals, for the more expressive lands of spirit communication and celebratory performance.

So while I’m by no means some huckster, shining folks on until the torches and pitchforks say it’s time to leave, I am taking myself less seriously than did years ago, and I’m having much more fun doing it.

Incidentally, you can get both the Magician and the Bateuler on a t-shirt from my Spring store.

Just sayin’.

I hope you have an excellent week.

Reloaded

Well, it took about twenty hours, but now I have my Linux laptop set up mostly how I want it. There are a few tweaks I need to make, of course. And kind of the whole point of this exercise is to slowly migrate more and more of my daily work over to it from the Windows machine.

But progress!

I realize that the title bar of this site describes it as a “blog about tarot, astrology, and magic,” and it’s been nearly two months since I’ve written anything of the sort. One reason for that, of course, is the avalanche of work I wrote about in my last post.

The other reason is that, I kinda have been writing about magic.

Magical = Mundane

I’ve written too many times to link to that I see no distinction between the magical and the mundane. And if you were to take an even casual survey of cultures from across time and space, you’ll see that almost no one ever has. For most of the human beings who’ve ever lived in this world, it was haunted as fuck, and they acted accordingly.

My view of the world is much the same, or at least similar enough that I don’t sweat it when I can’t find the time to meditate, or go journeying, or “properly” observe a feast day or what have you. And it’s because I know that everything I do is magic.

“Perspective fuels performance,” is a phrase I think about a lot. I honestly can’t recall if I read that somewhere years ago, or if it’s some I came up with (or something which came up with me). Either way, I like it.

You could say that I spent twenty hours over the last week writing and re-writing configuration files, installing software, copying data from one machine to another, and entering barely-remembered commands at far too many shell prompts.

You could also say that I spent those twenty hours using arcane formulas and barbarous names to channel lightning through stones and crystals engraved with incomprehensible patterns.

Believe me, since I do not like fiddling with computers, it was only by leaning heavily into that description that I even got through it.

Perspective. Try some.

It’s not all sweetness and light

As I was writing last week’s post, I thought carefully about just how much I wanted to relate concerning all of the bullshit I’m dealing with. I wanted to explain the increasing delays between posts, as well as share at least some details about the projects I’ve been working on. But as I wrote, I realized that it wouldn’t be a fluffy and happy post.

Mostly because I was not—at the time, nor now—feeling particularly fluffy and happy. And that’s okay.

I think I’ve written before that I don’t have much truck with the relentless positivity you see pretty much everywhere in “new age” or “spiritual” circles. I mean, I get it, and I get where it comes from. “Co-create your universe,” and all that.

But, as I see it, that sort of unyielding, “love and light” at all times thinking doesn’t just feed into whatever universe you might want to “co-create.” It also feeds into a lot of other people’s universes in the form of making them feel wrong, or unworthy, or broken.

Whenever I read someone talking about how such-and-such a person’s illness or misfortune was caused by their own “negative thoughts” or “bad projections” I get more than a little angry. This is because it’s not only wrong, it’s wrapped in just enough truth to sound right in the worst possible way.

Does positive thinking come with benefits? Absolutely. Even materialist medicine has admitted that, all else being equal, patients with better outlooks and attitudes have better outcomes. On the economic side, people who are enthusiastic and confident tend to succeed more often in the workplace and in business as a whole.

“Optimism is a spell.” That’s a phrase that’s been going around the occult community for a few years, now, and I’m not sure who first said it, but it’s very true. Vitally true. And isn’t every spell an optimistic act, in a way? Doesn’t the very fact that you’re doing it imply that, somehow, no matter what you’re going through or how dire your circumstances may look, you still have the ability to change things for the better?

I think so. Which is why I embrace a lot more “New Thought” material and practices than you might expect given what I’ve written here.

But, as true as it is that it can change your world, optimism only works as a spell if you’re willing to acknowledge when your circumstances are dire. You have to be able to see the world, and your place in it, for exactly what it is right now if you’re to have any hope of navigating through it.

Or, said more crudely, if you never admit your ass is filthy, what reason is there to wash it?

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen “love and light” their way straight into massive debt, medical emergencies, and shattered relationships. And it’s all for the same reason: they confused “acceptance” with “acceptance.”

When I look at my bank and credit card balances, and then scan over my receipt from the grocery store, I accept (acknowledge) that I’m in a tight spot. I similarly accept what my bathroom scale tells me, as well as the rate at which I’m going through anti-inflammatories to deal with the various and persistent aches and pains my middle-aged, out-of-shape body delights me with.

However, what I don’t do is accept (embrace) these facts. Seeing them, and admitting them as present truths, does not mean I’m handing them any power. Rather, it’s quite the opposite. By acknowledging reality in its present form, I, myself, am better empowered to change it.

This is one of the reasons I advocate divination as the first step in any practical enchantment work. In order to get to where you want to go, you need to know where you are on the map.

It’s not me, it’s you

Back when I first started this blog, I had a number of intentions for it. The biggest one, though, was that I wanted it to be honest. An honest account of what it’s like, for me, to be a full-time wizard. The good and the bad, the easy and the challenging, the wonders and the clusterfucks.

There were (and are) enough people who carefully curate their online personas to the point where, if all you saw was their Twitter or Instagram feeds, you’d think they were living their perfect dream lives one hundred percent of the time. I didn’t want to add to that noise.

In general, my life’s pretty good. But there are also times when it really, really sucks and I wonder what the fuck the point of everything is.

Like many of the people you see and read on the Internet, I write for an audience. I like to imagine that audience not as an amorphous cloud of demographic statistics, but as a single individual. My “ideal reader” as I think Stephen King called it in his book On Writing.

My ideal reader is someone, magically-inclined, who does not have all their ducks in a row. Who is not living their ideal lives. Who is not happy all the time. Sometimes, they’re perfectly miserable.

Yet, they do magic, with all of the optimism that implies.

I write about my financial struggles because I know a lot of magicians who are broke. I write about my health challenges because I know a lot of magicians who have disabilities. I write about the random, tedious, mundane crap that annoys me because I know a lot of magicians who spend a lot of time being annoyed. Probably more time than they should, present company included.

And I do it so that this ideal reader knows there’s at least one other wizard out there who experiences a lot of challenges, but is somehow managing to do mostly okay, most of the time. On average. Usually.

Reloading

I debated whether or not ending this post on a “positive” note would undercut what I wrote above, but no. I don’t think it will. In fact, I think it’s almost hilariously fitting.

As I write this, my back hurts. I think I tweaked a nerve in my left shoulder, and the nagging buzzing, tingling pain in my left butt cheek is almost certainly a sciatica thing. But here I am, sitting at my kitchen table in the one chair which doesn’t feel like it’s trying to kill me…and I’m legitimately happy.

Ever since migrating everything over to Emacs and org-mode, I’ve been more on top of my to-do lists and daily activities than I’ve been in months. I’m doing all the thing, and I haven’t felt the least bit stressed while doing them. At some point I might write a page about my setup, sparing none of the nerdy details, but for now I’ll just say that I’m using the right tool for the right job.

With that lack of stress, I’ve actually taken better care of myself physically. It’s only been a few days, and my body needs a lot more of them before it’s back where I need it to be, but this feels like a pretty good start.

And in case you missed that “I’m legitimately happy,” line, my mood has significantly improved as a result. I still see what has to be done, still acknowledge that my reality isn’t how I want it to be, but those facts aren’t weighing me down today. I examined the inventory, made a plan, and took the time I needed to reload and be ready.

Optimism is a spell. Try some.

An experiment in “physical clairvoyance”

Over the last few years, there’s been a bit of an uptick in books about developing “psychic abilities.” I put that phrase in quotes not because I’m looking to call the existence of such things into question, but rather because it’s often used as a kind of umbrella term.

Precognition, telepathy, spirit communication—the term “psychic” or “psychic phenomena” is applied to all of these and more. So when an author offers to help you build your own psychic potential, you usually have to go digging a bit to figure out exactly what they’re describing.

Overall, though, the general thinking here is that human beings (some if not all) have certain, innate senses which don’t seem to fit in with the “mundane” five we’re all familiar with. And, with proper training and practice, these “extra” senses can be worked like muscles at the gym, resulting in better performance.

Many of the “psychic improvement” books I’ve read seem to be of reasonable quality, or at least they offer some useful exercises in concentration, meditation, and listening to your own intuition. That said, not all of these books are created equally, and a few are…less than good.

I won’t name and shame here, nor am I aiming to put out any book recommendations. Rather, I wanted to say that the public’s increasing interest in psychic development reminded me of something from my very early days of magical study.

Touching things with Aleister Crowley

It was sometime around 1990, when I was about thirteen years old, that I first stumbled onto the writings of Aleister Crowley, an English occultist I’m certain you’ve not only heard of, but also have strong opinions about. I won’t get into my own thoughts about the man here, save to say that in my circle of friends we tend to refer to him as the “creepy uncle” of the Western, esoteric tradition.

One of the earliest papers of his which I read was titled Liber E vel Exercitiorum and it contained, among other things, a simple exercise under the heading “Physical Clairvoyance.” Here’s a slightly abridged version of this exercise:

  1. Take a pack of Tarot cards. Shuffle; cut. Draw one card. Without looking at it, try to name it. Write down the card you name, and the actual card. Repeat, and tabulate results.
  2. Remember that one should expect to name the right card once in 78 times. Also be careful to exclude all possibilities of obtaining the knowledge through the ordinary senses of sight and touch, or even smell. There was once a man whose fingertips were so sensitive that he could feel the shape and position of the pips and so judge the card correctly.
  3. It is better to try first the easier form of the experiment, by guessing only the suit.
  4. Remember that in 78 experiments you should obtain 22 trumps and 14 of each other suit; so that without any clairvoyance at all, you can guess right twice in 7 times (roughly) by calling trumps each time.
  5. As you progress you will find that you are able to distinguish the suit correctly three times in four and that very few indeed inharmonious errors occur, while in 78 experiments you are able to name the card aright as many as 15 or 20 times.

My teenaged brain loved the implications of this experiment. Not only did it seem to promise magical (or “psychic”) powers, but it provided a means by which to quantitatively measure your development.

If it looks like science, it’s gotta be science, right?

It’s a fun experiment to try, and relatively easy to pull off. There are a couple of stumbling blocks, though, which bugged me a bit whenever I came back to this exercise over the years.

First, my Tarot decks don’t tend to stay pristine for very long. Countless hours of shuffling has given every card of every one of my decks its own unique character—by which I mean they’re warped, with a wrinkle here and there. That’s how I like ‘em, so don’t judge me.

Second, doing out the probability math can get a bit tedious with the Tarot, thanks both to the varying numbers of cards in the suits, as well as the need to consider “harmonious” errors (like naming “The Tower” when you draw the “Five of Wands”) as being at least partial successes.

The general idea behind the exercise seems solid enough, though.

What if we tossed the Tarot cards and tried a different sort of deck?

Physical Clairvoyance v2.0

Let’s say we stick with a regular pack of fifty-two playing cards. We can buy a new pack without any dings or wrinkles, toss the advertising cards and jokers, and voila! We have a clean deck with exactly the same number of cards in each of the four suits.

Playing cards have been used for divination even longer than the Tarot. And, like the Tarot, each of the four suits has a general, traditional meaning:

  • Hearts are considered very positive, often meaning love or emotional fulfillment.
  • Diamonds are pretty good, and usually associated with material success.
  • Clubs are a little more challenging, and while they can mean success or accomplishments, it’s the sort which is only gained after hard work.
  • Spades aren’t very good at all, and usually mean struggles, arguments, or more serious challenges.

You might have your own associations and that’s fine. Use ‘em if you’ve got them.

We’re going to shuffle these cards thoroughly, then try Crowley’s version of the experiment wherein we want to guess only the suit of the card we pull. We’re also going to keep a running score, so grab a piece of paper and a pencil or pen.

When you’re ready, shuffle the deck, give it a cut, then draw a card without looking. With the card in your hand, take a minute or two to sit with and feel its energy.

Once you think you know which suit it belongs to, look at the card and see if you were right or wrong.

Write down the card you guessed, what the actual card was, and how many points you earned for that guess. Give yourself two points for an exact match (calling “Diamonds” and actually getting a Diamond). Give yourself one point if you guessed the wrong suit, but got the same color (calling “Hearts” and getting a Diamond). If you didn’t even get the color right, give yourself no points.

Now, unless you have far more patience than I do, you probably don’t want to go through the whole pack of cards in a single sitting. Instead, try it with five cards. You want to take your time settling in, and take your time with each card, but the whole exercise shouldn’t take you more than about fifteen minutes.

When guessing five cards using this scoring system, assuming your guesses are totally random, you can expect to get three or four points on average. A ten would be a perfect score, meaning you guessed the correct suit all five times.

It probably can go without saying, but this is an exercise designed to be done regularly, over a long period of time. This is both because we’re aiming to “psychic muscles” a workout, but also because small sample sizes can be very deceiving when doing these kinds of experiments. It’s entirely possible that you’ll guess all five cards right on your first try, but you probably wouldn’t want to take that result too seriously. Nor should you be disappointed if you don’t get a single card right.

Rather, shoot for five cards in a session, and try to do around three sessions per week. That’s over seven hundred guesses over the course of a year, which will give you a lot of data to play with.

Personally, I’d suggest using a spreadsheet to track your results, but I’m kind of a nerd. Do whatever works for you. The important thing is to be able to ask and answer at least some of the following questions.

  1. What is your average score each day?
  2. Does your average daily score improve over time?
  3. Do you get a better score if you perform this experiment right after meditation?
  4. Do you get a better score if you perform this experiment right after divination?
  5. Is there some ritual you can do to improve your score?
  6. Do you get a better score on certain days of the week, or during certain times of the day?
  7. Are your guesses more accurate when the card you draw is a certain number? Large? Small? Face cards?
  8. Do you tend to guess one suit more than the others? Are those guesses more or less likely to be right?

I’m sure you can see that there’s a lot of room to play here, and that’s a big part of the reason while even after more than thirty years, I still come back to some version of this exercise now and then.

I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

A simple prosperity ritual using the Ace of Coins

Among the four minor suits of the Tarot, the Coins seem to have had the most name changes. In the earliest decks, Coins were Coins, represented by circles of gold which linked them to money and prosperity. Centuries later, some decks represented them as Pentacles, and authors linked the suit to “materiality” in all its forms. And even later still, this suit became known as Disks in some circles, keeping most of the “material” significations, but adding or subtracting certain subtleties.

But what are Coins, really?

For most of us, they’re those little hunks of metal we let pile up in the cup holders or unused ashtrays of our cars. We almost never really even use them now, unless it’s to throw them in a jar or can which we later haul to a bank and trade in for “real” money. Otherwise, they just get in the way or get sucked up in the vacuum cleaner whenever we decide to clean under our sofa cushions.

Honestly? We just don’t think of them as money anymore.

Money, to most of us, means paper, but even that is a bit of a stretch these days. I almost never carry cash of any kind, and I know very few people who do. Instead, most of us rely on debit and credit cards, or even apps on our phones, for our mercantile needs.

And of course by “mercantile,” I mean “Mercury.”

Trade and commerce today is almost entirely under the rulership of Mercury in every sense. Money changes hands as fast as electrons can fly through the air. It’s ephemeral, intangible, and interconnects every aspect of our world in innumerable and often-imperceptible ways.

And when we see the stock market booming while record numbers of people are out of work, well, it’s hard to imagine money as being anything other than under the rulership of a capricious deity too clever for their own good.

There’s absolutely nothing about money which can be properly called “material” in this day and age. It’s as immaterial as a thing can get, so equating Coins with money doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Instead, in my opinion, Coins best represent tangible things which possess intrinsic value.

Take a look at the suit of Pentacles as illustrated in the world’s most popular Tarot deck, the Rider-Waite-Smith.

In the Ace of Pentacles, a hand issues forth from a cloud, bearing a single, enormous Coin. The scene takes place in a garden, with a path and archway leading out, to twin mountains beyond.

The handle cradles the Coin both gently and securely.

Is it presenting the Coin to us? Receiving the Coin from us as an offering? Or has it plucked the Coin from the bounty of the garden in which we stand?

Is the garden itself the Coin in some way? Aren’t the fruits, flowers, herbs, and vegetables we might find there more “real” than the zeroes and ones flipping about in our bank’s computer system?

In every bit of the scene below the hand, we see tangible, recognizable things which have intrinsic value. We see (or can infer) food, for instance. The walls of the garden provide us with a kind of shelter, don’t they? And the mountains beyond can provide us with stone to build with.

There is a solidity to the ground in this card which echoes that of the hand wrapped around the coin, even as the hand itself seems somewhat ephemeral, what with it coming out of a cloud and all.

If you look at the other cards of this suit, you’ll see patterns emerge which echo that of the Ace. In the three, we see a clear picture of an artist at work, crafting something which likely will outlast themselves. In the four, we see someone holding the Coins close, almost like armor. Are the Coins protecting the person, or is the person protecting the Coins?

Most clearly, though, I think the image on the eight most clearly shows the true meaning of this suit. A laborer, carefully and methodically creating piece after piece. They sit on a bench, hammer and chisel in hand, bringing tangible things into the world. We see a castle in the background, with a path leading out.

And just there in the corner, at the opposite end of the path from the castle—is that a forest? Or is it the edge of a garden? Is the laborer on this card actually in the garden of the Ace, and we just can’t see it from our perspective?

If so, might not the hand in the garden be the hand of the worker? Or is it our hand, receiving the fruits of the worker’s steadfast labor?

The concrete things we create. The physical objects we can hold in our hands to feel that “spark of joy.” The tangible items which fulfill our needs through their intrinsic value. These are all Coins, and the Ace is the source of them.

A Quick-and-Dirty Prosperity Ritual

One of the simplest ways to both see and use “Ace of Coins energy” in your life is to do a little “quick-and-dirty” prosperity work.

Variations of this spell or ritual can be found all over the place, most of which involve the use of paper money. For the reasons I discussed above (among others), I don’t do prosperity work with currency. I use Coins.

For this ritual, you’ll need a small candle, either white or green; a copy of the Ace of Coins (or the Ace of Diamonds from a regular deck of playing cards); a fire-proof or heat-safe plate; and a safe place where you can set a candle burning and keep an eye on it.

When I say that you want a copy of the Ace, I mean it. You’ll be getting wax on it. A photocopy is fine, but I usually just use an Ace of Diamonds from one of the ten million decks of playing cards I’ve somehow acquired.

As for the candle? Don’t be shy about using birthday candles. They’re cheap, come in an assortment of colors, and burn quickly enough that you don’t have to wait around for an hour or longer for them to burn down.

When you’re ready to begin, gather your materials where you’ll do the work, and take a few minutes to relax.

Put the plate down in front of you, then lay the Ace face up in the middle of it. When you do, imagine that this Ace is the seed or root of the prosperity and bounty which is to come. Remember, this isn’t the seed of money, but of the tangible rewards and goods which are about to come into your life. It’s better to think about the Ace as the root of the things you would use money to buy, rather than to think about the money itself.

As you place the card down, say something like this…

Ace of Coins (or Ace of Diamonds)

Seed of prosperity, root of good things

Promise of all that I need

Set your candle on top of the card, preferable in the middle of the Coin or Diamond. If you need to use a candle holder, you may. If it’s safe to do so, however, you can instead melt the wax on the bottom of the candle and stick it directly to the card.

After you’ve done this, light the candle, saying something like this…

As the Sun gives light to the seedling

Let this candle give light to thee.

Root of all I need

Fulfill your promise to me!

Allow the candle to burn down completely, imagining the light nourishing the Ace, allowing its gifts to grow. Imagine the heat and the smoke from the flame bringing the gifts of the Ace to life, and carrying them to you.

The words I provide above are just a suggestion, and I vary what I say a great deal whenever I do this work. Sometimes I’m looking for something specific, but most of the time when I use this for myself or on behalf of others, I’m looking for “generic prosperity.” It works either way.

And if you give it a shot yourself, let me know how it works for you!

Let’s make friends (or, basil and beyond)

I’ve been thinking about the word “community” a lot lately. What community means to me, how communities are formed and grow, and how each of us relate to the communities we find ourselves in.

It’s a big word, which describes our personal corner of the big world. Siblings, cousins, neighbors—if you’re astrologically-minded, you might notice that these keywords are connected to the third house. Indeed, the third house is probably best described as the House of Community.

Messages, short journeys, early education—these are also intrinsic parts of community.

We connect with our community through communication (and note the similarity of those words). Our daily rounds take us through our community, whether for work or play. And what is our earliest form of education? Learning to socialize. Pediatricians in the United States appear universally convinced that teaching children good social skills is critical, especially during the brain’s early development.

So let’s lean into this concept of “community” and see if we can’t do a little magic. Maybe we can try some herbal magic this time.

Magic and herbalism have gone hand in hand for thousands of years. The idea of using of “plant allies” to get things done is found in traditions all over the globe, and the Western magical tradition is no exception. Modern, Medieval, and Renaissance grimoires are full of lists of herbs for all that ails you, and although some of them can be expensive or hard to find, a very good one for this “community” theme is probably sitting in your kitchen cupboard.

Basil: it’s not just for pesto

Basil has been used in religious and magical rituals for thousands of years, and can be found just about everywhere these days. Its culinary uses are legion, but it’s also a very good herb for relationships: forming them, fixing them, and dealing with them when they aren’t meant to be.

Look through any book on magical herbalism, or do a Google search, and you’ll see this property of basil mentioned over and over again. Whether it’s the plant’s attractive, sweet smell; its welcoming, vibrant green color; or its unusual resistance to “pests,” it seems obvious that this particular plant will be particularly good for “community” work.

Grow some

Never underestimate the power of keeping plant allies in and around your home. If you have the window space or a suitable yard, consider growing some basil. Living basil kept in or around your home encourages meaningful, positive relationships which generate little friction. It can also help “keep the pests away,” if you need that sort of thing.

Whenever you grow a plant, from seed or seedling, you’re building a relationship with it. You offer it nutrient-rich soil, water, and daily companionship. In exchange, it offers you its culinary, medicinal, and magical gifts—not to mention its friendship.

Growing your own plant allies is hands-down the easiest way to get to know them.

Buy some

If your gardening chops aren’t up to snuff, or you simply don’t have the space to grow a plant, hit up the spice rack of your neighborhood grocery store. The dried basil they sell in jars is fine.

You might do well to keep the jar on your altar for a while, make some offerings to it, and show some respect to the spirit of the plant before trying to get up to any magic with it.

I mean, let’s face it, it’s sort of rude to ask a total stranger for a favor.

The home

Community starts with your home and those living within it. Whether these people are friends, relatives, or roommates, cultivating good relationships with those you live with seems like a good first step. And the simplest way to use basil in this regard is to cook a meal with it.

Food is powerful magic, and the sharing of food is one of the hallmarks of community. Throw together some pasta and sauce, using and thanking some of the basil you’ve either grown or bought. Invite everyone and enjoy a friendly meal together.

A pinch of dried basil placed discretely in each corner of your home or apartment (or in each corner of every room) is another common way of smoothing out tensions, mellowing everyone, and keeping “pests” away. And if this latter is a significant issue, a good pinch of basil scattered on the welcome mat outside helps make sure that only those things which actually are welcome come in.

The neighborhood and beyond

Basil scattered about the four corners of your block, or at the nearest crossroads can help cultivate good relationships with and between your neighbors. You can also toss a bit of it around your neighbors’ yards, though that might look a little weird if you’re caught.

Another way to spread some “basil cheer” is to write a few greeting cards or short, friendly notes to friends and neighbors in your community. After you’ve composed them, burn a little basil as incense and pass the cards through the smoke. You don’t want to get carried away with this, otherwise the card might smell like a pizzeria. Just a little will do ya.

(As an aside, in case it isn’t obvious, sending cards and small gifts to friends and neighbors through the mail is, on its own, an excellent way to cultivate strong relationships. It’s a fading practice we’d all do well to revive.)

There are endless possibilities for the use of basil in forming and strengthening communities, and I encourage you again to do some digging for other ways to work with this plant. It’s an ally which seems to absolutely love meeting and working with new people, which shouldn’t be surprising given what it’s so very good at.

Meditation isn’t everything

If you hang around a group of occultists for long enough, sooner or later you’re going to hear some variation on the phrase: “You need to meditate every day.”

Sometimes this is presented as a kind of best-practice recommendation, but other times folks will outright state that without daily meditation, magic (effective magic, anyway) is impossible.

This is…certainly a position one could take, but it’s not the only one. And in this post, I kind of want to unpack the role of meditation in Western magic. I also want to offer what might be a different perspective on what “meditation” even is, as well as a few different “meditative” techniques which you can try.

Why daily mediation?

The idea that you have to meditate in order to be good at magic is a common one. If you read most any “How To Magic” book printed in the last few decades, you’re bound to find it. And while we can argue about the precise origins of this idea, for all practical purposes it really comes down to one person: Aleister Crowley.

Now yes, yes, I know! If you’ve taken more than a cursory glance at the history of what we might as well call “The Western Esoteric Tradition,” you’re already shaking your head and wagging your finger at the screen. Crowley neither invented the idea of meditating for magical success, nor is he the only one of his contemporaries who practiced it.

But he did popularize it, to a degree that no one else in the tradition could even pretend to claim.

Crowley’s whole magical “schtick” was that every human being has a “True Will,” and that it’s both the right and responsibility of every human being to discover what their True Will is, and then to go about doing it. And in Crowley’s opinion, the best way to accomplish this was to combine ceremonial magic (as taught to him by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) with the meditative disciplines of yoga (as taught to him primarily by Swami Vivekananda).

The idea is that by mixing “magick” with “mysticism,” one could most reliably achieve what the Golden Dawn described as connecting with one’s “Higher Divine Genius” and what Crowley called the “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.”

The key word in the above sentence is “reliably.” Crowley acknowledged that there were many people throughout history who appeared to have made contact with their Divine Whatevers, without any real training or practice, but that it was more or less by happenstance that they did so. It was his goal and aim to provide a consistent, guaranteed system, by which the average person could attain this connection. And the system he developed along with George Cecil Jones required both daily magical ritual as well as daily meditation.

In one of the very first books written for Crowley and Jones’s magical order, Liber E vel Exercitiorum, they include instructions for the fundamental meditative practices required of members. Here’s an excerpt describing four positions or “asana” which are recommended for meditation…

You must learn to sit perfectly still with every muscle tense for long periods.
You must wear no garments that interfere with the posture in any of these experiments.
The first position: (The God). Sit in a chair; head up, back straight, knees together, hands on knees, eyes closed.
The second position: (The Dragon). Kneel; buttocks resting on the heels, toes turned back, back and head straight, hands on thighs.
The third position: (The Ibis). Stand, hold left ankle with right hand, free forefinger on lips.
The fourth position: (The Thunderbolt). Sit; left heel pressing up anus, right foot poised on its toes, the heel covering the phallus; arms stretched out over the knees; head and back straight.
Various things will happen to you while you are practising these positions; they must be carefully analysed and described.
Note down the duration of practice; the severity of the pain (if any) which accompanies it, the degree of rigidity attained, and any other pertinent matters.
When you have progressed up to the point that a saucer filled to the brim with water and poised upon the head does not spill one drop during a whole hour, and when you can no longer perceive the slightest tremor in any muscle; when, in short, you are perfectly steady and easy, you will be admitted for examination; and, should you pass, you will be instructed in more complex and difficult practices.

So that’s Crowley’s take in a terrifically-simplified nutshell. But what does that have to do with meditation in the occult or esoteric schools today?

Well, like it or not, Crowley’s thinking—and even many of his specific methods—is woven throughout almost every corner of the esoteric tradition you’re likely to come across these days. Whether you’re looking at Wicca, “ecclectic” witchcraft, or “New Thought,” you’ll find concepts like “True Will,” “visualization,” and, yes, daily meditation showing up over an over again.

And yes, as I wrote above, he’s not the only one to blame for this situation. One can point to Theosophy, and folks like Edgar Cayce as other examples. It’s my contention, though, that the seemingly inseparable marriage of magic and meditation is mostly Crowley’s fault.

Blame? Fault? Is meditation a bad thing?

If you’ve been reading this blog of mine for a while, you might have gotten the impression that I’m not super on-board with many of Crowley’s takes. I don’t subscribe to the idea that we each possesses a “True Will,” for instance.

As for his take on meditation, I’m in slightly more agreement with him than I usually am, but we are definitely not on the same page. I think he presents a far too narrow view of what meditation is, and I also think that meditation isn’t the only way to achieve the results most practitioners are actually going for.

I should also point out that there are many magical traditions out there which neither recommend nor require daily meditation. Medieval grimoires, astrological magic from the renaissance? You won’t find much that looks like meditation in there, and you can find countless other examples from other cultures and time periods.

So let’s do some unpacking, and think a bit about why many of today’s Western magicians meditate, and what might be some other ways to accomplish those goals than sitting on the floor for an hour.

What is meditation, really?

The general idea of meditation you’ll find kicking around the magical community today tends to represent it as “sitting still and quieting your mind,” or words to that effect. You’re supposed to find a comfortable spot, hold a particular position, and either tell your brain to focus on one specific thought, or else to shut the hell up entirely.

To do this, you’ll see a number of different techniques, many of which have been cribbed from Eastern religions. Mantras, mudras, breathing techniques, and various visualization exercises are scattered throughout most of the literature in print today. Sometimes these techniques are presented using Sanskrit terms (such as “asana” and “pranayama”) but sometimes they’re just described in an exercise and left unnamed.

Here’s the thing, though. A lot of the people I see writing about meditation in a Western magical context seem to have missed the forest for the trees. They spend an enormous amount of time describing technique after technique, and exercise after exercise, but they often fail to describe what the actual goal of doing all of this is.

In my opinion, the goal of meditation, in this context, is to achieve what I’m going to call “The In-Between Mind.”

The In-Between Mind is a state of awareness and thought which is somewhat in between that of your typical, waking consciousness and your typical, dreaming consciousness. It’s a bit like being half-asleep, yet profoundly aware at the same time. It’s “daydreaming,” but directed and purposeful.

I’ve heard this state referred to as “The Numinous” and “Gnosis,” but those few times I’ve seen or heard it adequately described all more or less explain it in terms similar to what I wrote above. You’re looking for a state of mind where, on one level, you feel disconnected from “mundane reality,” but at another level, more deeply connected to “something else” than you can easily put into words. And that lack of words is probably why so few authors even try to write about it. Regardless, you’ll know it once you experience it—it’s an unmistakable feeling.

Now, to be fair, in other contexts the goal of meditation is different. This is particularly true when you look to the Eastern religions from which a lot of the techniques are derived. I’m not addressing these other purposes, but rather sticking solely to that In-Between mental state which I believe sits at the heart of the “Western Esoteric Tradition.”

Mystical mind states without meditation

Now that I’ve at least tried to explain what meditation is actually for in a Western magical context, let’s talk a bit about alternatives. As I said, it’s possible to get into this In-Between Mind without using the typical meditation techniques you’ve probably read about.

First up, yes, there’s the use of increasingly-legal entheogenic or psychedelic substances. Let’s get that out of the way.

Cultures all over the planet, all throughout history, have made ritual or ceremonial use of plants and plant compounds to achieve an altered state of consciousness. And yes, this goes for people of “white, European” descent as well. Despite the pearl-clutching admonitions of certain witchcraft authors from the 1970s through the 1990s, there is absolutely a long, storied history of mind-altering “flying ointments” and other such chemical aids in European cunning traditions.

So, if that’s your jam, well…I’m not saying get busy with the hashish and psilocybin, but I’m also not telling you that it’s wrong or “ahistorical propaganda.”

However, when I say “meditation alternatives,” I don’t really mean mind-altering substances, but rather other practices which can get you into the In-Between Mind.

See, the meditation you read about more or less relies on that idea of “quiet” that I wrote about above. It gets you to the In-Between Mind by dialing down conscious thought. Put in more technical terms, meditation is an inhibitory process. There’s another kind of process, though, which can get you to the same place—an excitatory process.

Consider dancing to the steady rhythm of a drum beat. Just like the use of entheogens, you’ll find ritual or ceremonial music and dance all over the world. Sometimes this dancing is accompanied by elaborate costumes, and multiple dancers all playing at or performing certain roles. They are wholly immersive experiences which are designed to excite the mind and drive it toward the In-Between state not by quieting conscious thought, but by more or less drowning it out.

You work yourself up to an “ecstatic state” and overwhelm your workaday, mundane mind.

It’s important not to go too far down the often-problematic road of cultural comparison, but even a cursory survey of world religions shows a wide range of excitatory practices with long histories of uniting the mind to something “higher.”

One’s “Higher Divine Genius,” perhaps?

A grab bag of exercises

Since I think it’s legal requirement that any occult or esoteric author who writes about meditation has to provide an exercise or two for the reader to experiment with, here are a few of mine. Some of these fall on the “inhibitory” side of the graph, but others are more “excitatory” in nature. Also? I think most of them are quite fun and fairly easy to do.

The Counting Walk

Here’s my favorite inhibitory method: go for a walk.

If you can, do this outside, but this is also excellent when you’re on a treadmill. Wherever you do this, though, make sure you aren’t in an environment where you need to keep a constant awareness of your surroundings. Busy streets, bad neighborhoods, or bear country probably aren’t the best places to attempt this.

Begin just by taking a leisurely stroll and breathing normally. After you’ve settled into a relaxing, comfortable pace, start counting every time your right foot hits the ground. Don’t stomp your foot or anything, just walk naturally, but start counting whenever your right foot lands. “One. Two. Three. Four. One. Two. Three. Four.”

That’s it. Just count from one to four, saying the number either in your head or softly under your breath each time your right foot makes contact. One. Two. Three. Four.

If you like, you can begin to add a bit of counted breathing to this exercise. Exhale completely, then on the next “One,” begin to inhale, filling your lungs completely by the time you’ve hit “Four.” Then, at the next “One,” begin to exhale and finish with your lungs empty when you hit “Four” again. Repeat. When you do this, though, be sure to adjust your walking pace if needed. If you try this while walking briskly up a hill, well, don’t mention my name to the paramedics.

After a while, and a fair bit of practice, you might find a pace where this is very comfortable and relaxing. At that point, you might want to try expanding your breathing practice into what Israel Regardie called the “Four-Fold Breath.” That is, inhale for a count of four, then hold your breath for a count of four. Then you exhale for a count of four, and hold your lungs empty for a count of four. In four, hold four, out four, hold four, repeat.

It can be pretty tricky to do the four-fold breath in this walking manner, so definitely just ease into it at the start. Find your pace on some decent, level ground, then do one cycle and see how you feel. Then maybe try doing two cycles. Then maybe three. Give yourself breaks in between if you need to, and don’t push yourself too hard.

I find that a ten or fifteen minute Counting Walk with the Four-Fold Breath is really relaxing, and I quickly enter that In-Between mental state without feeling light-headed or that I’m struggling for air.

The Movie Scene

Here’s a fun excitatory exercise. I call this the “Movie Scene,” but you can use any scene from a movie, television show, or novel. Regardless of the source, choose a short scene from a work of fiction which speaks to you. Maybe it’s inspiring. Maybe it’s energizing. Whatever the feeling, make sure it’s something which you want to experience and deeply explore.

Give yourself between ten and fifteen minutes to try this out. When you first begin playing with this technique, you can do this while sitting down, laying down, taking a walk, or taking a shower. As with the Counting Walk, I wouldn’t do this somewhere dangerous, and I certainly wouldn’t do it while driving a car.

With that said, imagine the scene in your mind as best you are able. Maybe you can picture it, maybe you can hear it. Whichever of your senses you can engage, engage them all and really try to immerse yourself in the scene. At first, you can imagine that you’re just a bystander, observing the scene without participating. With practice, however, you may find yourself able to take on the role of one of the characters. Regardless, go through the entire scene in exactly the manner in which it was written or performed.

To be clear, don’t try to make any changes to the scene, or add your own editorial flourishes. Rather, let it play out just as you remember it. Once you’ve hit the end of the scene, start it again from the top, only this time try to add even more details. For instance, if the scene takes place over a breakfast table, be sure you’re picturing (or smelling, or tasting) all of the foods which are present. If it takes place on a frigid mountaintop, make sure you’re feeling the cold wind.

Go through the scene several times, from beginning to end, adding in as much detail as you can, and immersing yourself in it more and more deeply. Really feel as though you are there and participating. Let the events and emotions completely envelop you.

As you improve, try physically acting out the scene and saying your lines out loud. This might be easier for some scenes than for others, and again make sure you’re in a safe place to do this, but it’s well worth trying.

The actual act of performance is incredibly excitatory if you can pull it off, and it’s not really that hard once you have a little practice. To be honest, the hardest part is probably working past the idea that you’ll seem “silly” doing it. Give it your sincere effort, though. Do it while alone in your room, or otherwise not around prying eyes or ears. Or, if you’re in a magical group with other like-minded people, maybe offer it up as something you can all try out.

Depending on the sort of Movie Scene you’ve chosen, and how often you practice this, you can get quite deep so be sure you’re in an environment where it’s not only safe to immerse yourself in the scene, but also that you have the time and space to mentally and emotionally recover afterward.

Self Possession

This is another fun one, and it’s incredibly useful even outside of a meditative context. It can be either inhibitory or excitatory, depending on where you take it. As with the Movie Scene described above, give yourself a good ten or fifteen minutes to try this at first. With just a little practice, though, you’ll probably find that you’re able to do this for an hour or more at a time with ease.

Before you begin the exercise, take a few minutes to think about what you’ll be like in twenty years. Think about the studies you’re pursuing now, the practices you are working on, and the life experiences you are aiming for. Consider what twenty years of patient effort and success will mean for you. Really give this some thought. Maybe you can picture where you’ll be living or what your average day will be like, and that’s great, but what you’re really looking for is how you will feel and how you will think.

Once you’ve got an at least somewhat decent handle on this, take a few relaxing or “clearing” breaths, then try to immerse yourself in the future mind you imagine. Trust me, this is easier done than said.

I call this exercise “Self Possession” because that’s the sort of “vibe” you’re going for. You want to imagine yourself reaching forward in time, making contact with yourself twenty years from now, and then bringing that future self back to “possess” your body in the present. You want to connect with yourself after two decades of life experience, practice, and study.

What will it feel like to achieve most or all of the goals you’ve set for yourself in the present time? How will your thought processes seem after so many years of magical practice? What will you think about your current struggles given twenty years of perspective?

I wrote that this exercise is useful even when employed outside of meditation, and I meant it. After only a little practice, it’s possible to enter a “Self-Possessed” state almost at will. And I find this especially helpful when I’m angry at something or someone, or when I’m otherwise not necessarily thinking all that clearly. What’s more, I’ve actually found myself “remembering” solutions to various problems I’m experiencing, almost like my future self remembers how he solved them.

Where this exercise really shines, though, is when you’ve progressed to the point where you can not only bring up this mental state at will, but can retain it as you go about your day. I don’t mean to say that you can always live in a “Self-Possessed” state, but rather that you can invoke it before, say, taking a test or speaking in front of a group. Any time you feel ill-at-ease, try taking a few moments to bring in your Future Self, and then see how that affects not only your attitude but your performance.

As an added bonus, there are various visualization or “affirmation” practices which have at their heart imagining how “success” will look and feel. For example, if you are looking to move into a new home or apartment, you might meditate on how it will feel to sit in your new living room, or to work in your new garden.

In this Self Possession exercise, you’re immersing yourself in the most ideal future you can imagine, and then living and acting as though it has already come to pass. That’s a powerful affirmation.

Do it on the daily?

So I’ve shared my thoughts on how the whole “daily meditation” thing became so popular, and I’ve given you some ideas about alternative practices which are a little less of the “sitting around and clearing your mind” variety. Now, I should probably say something about how often you should practice.

The bottom line is that meditation, of any sort, is a skill. And skills really only improve with regular practice. The key to being able to enter into that In-Between Mind state with ease is to get into it frequently. So I don’t think it’s a mistake to say that yes, you should probably do something to get into this state every day.

Where I think some people do make a mistake, though, is in thinking there’s only one way to get into it in the first place. Or that once you find one method which works, you need to stick with that method and avoid experimenting with others.

In my opinion, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe one day your practice looks like sitting on the floor and getting your mindfulness on. But the next day? Maybe it looks like taking a Counting Walk. Or maybe it looks like Self-Possession while you’re standing in line for coffee, or working out at the gym.

Also, there’s an idea that with regular practice you should find yourself sitting and meditating for longer and longer stretches of time. I really think this is missing the point.

One of the earliest forms of meditation I experimented with was a simple count-down technique, versions of which I’ve seen in several books since. It begins with sitting in a comfortable spot, taking a few deep breaths, then closing your eyes. You relax your body, usually imagining that relaxation like a wave spreading over you from head to toe, and then you begin counting down in your head.

The version I learned had me count down from one hundred to one. With each number, you’re supposed to imagine that feeling of relaxation deepen, so that by the time you reached “one,” you were completely relaxed and completely at peace.

I still do this exercise from time to time, since I find I can get really deep when I do, but for the most part I find that just a few deep breaths and a conscious effort to relax is enough to get me into a fairly decent In-Between state. Most days, it takes me about thirty seconds to get there. What’s more, I don’t tend to hang around in this meditative state for very long. I’m usually there just to accomplish whatever magic I need to attend to. If it’s, say, something like an affirmation or just checking in with the spirits, then I’m probably in and out in around five minutes. If I’m “journeying” or doing “astral travel,” then yeah, I might be in this state for anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour.

The point here is not to boast or anything, but rather to explain that once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you should be able to get into a meditative state quickly and reliably whenever you need to. Also? You shouldn’t find it much of a challenge to stay in that state for however long you wish to or need to.

So that’s my take on meditation. Let me know if you try any of these exercises, and how they work for you.

If nothing else, I hope they’ve inspired you to look beyond the “conventional” techniques and try something new.

Have fun!