Saturday, April 28, 2012

PBP 10: Ignorance is Pretty Much Never Bliss

(Picture from msn.com)


Greetings, fair readers. Today I'm going to harp about why pretending shit doesn't exist is not really a good practice when it comes to the spirit world.

My mom, the roman catholic, has this view when it comes to spirits: If I don't talk about them, think about them, and/or learn about them and don't want them to bother me, then they won't bother me. Let me tell you from firsthand experience if shit worked that way it would be a beautiful paradise.

But the fact is, it doesn't.

If you are Called, especially, possibly the worst thing you can do is stick your head in the sand and pretend things aren't happening to you. I know about someone's mother who delved too far into Paganism when not prepared and summoned some shit that literally scared them into intense Christianity (the "good path") and spurred them to denounce Paganism as a practice and Pagans in general forevermore. I have read of Shamans who were Called and attempted to forgo the path, with sometimes nearly fatal results. (Spirits don't like to be kept waiting, and if you're more likely to pay attention dead, well, that's your fault.)

People like Sylvia Browne are perpetuating some of this dangerous myth as we speak. If you haven't heard of her (I have no idea how you can avoid it) she has a tremendous amount of books out, all of them portraying the Spirit world as a place of "love and light" and generally whitelighting the hell out of the astral. She basically denies the existence of danger in the spirit world because obviously everything there is angelic and therefore wants to help us, yadda yadda yadda. The reason I keep writing on Spirits and the Worlds they inhabit is to provide a counterpoint to people like this, because if you're not prepared you're more likely to get fucked up by Spirits or Deities with bad intentions.

I'm not some demon-huntress, thinking there is bad shit waiting to get me around every turn, but I'm not ostrich-heading myself either. You wouldn't go out into a city thinking everyone has good intent, and deciding not to lock your door because hey, nobody will break in if I don't want them to, right? Or if I remain ignorant about the dangers of living in this city, I'll be totally safe, right?

This is essentially the logic people have expressed to me before about Spirits, and it really blows my mind. Why would you choose to be unprepared when you have the alternative?

I realize people speak this way from a place of fear. If I don't understand something, don't tell me about it, because it scares me. But you're talking to an Aquarius here. If I don't know something I will procede to research the FUCK out of it until I know everything about it and related topics. So purposeful ignorance is something I don't have respect for.

Here's the thing, guys: Spirits exist, but they tend to not give a shit whether you prefer to live in a happy bubble where nothing bad exists. If you're meant to work with them they will cannonball into your life and you'll wake up one day with a dead Commander from the Civil War making eggs in your kitchen and going "Sup?", whether you want it that way or not. It's pure nonsense to think if you will it not to happen, it won't happen. You're only endangering yourself by choosing to remain ignorant of Spirits and the beings on the Astral.

I'm not saying you have to work with Spirits and beings if you're not called to. I'm just saying being educated and prepared is not a bad thing, the event you have a haunting you need to handle, for instance. Becoming educated on how to handle that is just basic preparedness, and will keep you from being too scared in a situation where you have no idea what is going on. Being ready gives you power over the things that you fear, so if you have a sudden demon problem you don't flip your shit and resign yourself to giant bats inhabiting your bathroom forever more. It's simply not good practice to focus on only one side of the good/bad coin, if I can borrow dualistic terms for a moment. The more you bury your head the more you're hurting your practice.

And if you ask me what to read or look at to become prepared, well, I can't really give many recs. All of the spirit shit that has happened to me happened unannounced, when I had never seen nor spoke with a Spirit before, and I can tell you none of the books on the market helped me that much with learning about them. I had no mentor, but I did have my partner, who was experienced with the astral, and that was a help. But she had no books or mentor either. Most of the knowledge I have about this is experience and stuff that really would have helped me when 16 species of spirit-dogs were hanging out in my dorm room. I have never seen the Underworld mapped in a book before, and that's why I'm doing it. I have never seen someone lay out the ins and outs of lie-truth talking before, so I'm doing it. As always, I hope to reach people who think they're going crazy, and show them it's fine.

Back on topic, if you're the most ostrich headed person in the world when it comes to bad spirits, I really think you're one of the most likely people to encounter them. If you're not prepared at all, you're basically easy energetic pickings. If you're afraid, you're delicious. Demons, especially, feed off the uneducated because nobody has told them if it claims to be Lucifer himself it's probably lying because it makes your energy delicious.

My mom has since seen some spirits, and predictably freaked out and assumed they were all harbingers of doom. Then she went to me and asked me what that meant, was she going to die, was someone else doing to die, why was there a spirit in our living room? Had she been prepared maybe this wouldn't have happened. Food for thought.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Poison Post: Henbane & Hemlock




Henbane

Scientific Name: Hyoscyamus niger

Folk/Common Names: Henbane, Stinking Nightshade
Toxicity Level: Toxic in low doses to animals, pretty toxic to humans in high doses.
Poison Type: Hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and alkaloids
Where is the Poison: Foliage and leaves

Symptoms: Hallucinations, sweating, stomach pain(as always), hypertension, vomiting, and convulsions

Interesting Fact: Was thought to be used in combination with other baneful flying herbs.

Folk Info: This was thought to be the poison poured into Hamlet's father!

BOTTOM LINE: Should you be worried?

Yeah seriously don't touch poison.



Hemlock (Poisonous)

Scientific Name: Conium maculatu
Folk/Common Names: Spotted hemlock,
Toxicity Level: If you eat it, you're dead. No exceptions.
Poison Type: Coniine, gamma-coniceine (both alkaloids)
Where is the Poison: Everywhere

Symptoms: The poison is a neurotoxin, so it disrupts muscle function, starting from the non essential and preceding in. Most common cause of dead is because the lungs cease to function, and the person suffocates and goes into cardiac arrest.

Interesting Fact: This is, of course, the famed herb used to kill Socrates, the famous philosopher.

BOTTOM LINE: Should you be worried?

You know what, it doesn't sound that awesome to be conscious as your body slowly goes into permanent paralysis, ending with your heart and eyes.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

PBP 09: Shamanic Healing & Soul Landscapes


Image from paintingsilove.com

Be aware I distinguish Shamanic Healing as a practice from both Reiki, which is distinctly Japanese and arguably non-Shamanic in origin, and from any tribal or non-my-sect-of-Shamanism out there. Shamanic healing is not a monolithic structure of way of doing shit despite what Core Shamanism leads people to believe. The way I learned to heal was literally shown to me in a dream and it seems to work for me so that's what I am talking about. (For my post on Core Shamanism (and why I take issue with it) click here.)

I often don't see non-Reiki energy healing discussed, particularly because it's kind of difficult to find good sources on it. The way I learned to heal was instinctual and essentially animistic, and I can understand how that might be hard to understand and a lot less elegant than Reiki, which is quite calming and beautiful.

My way of healing I have seen referred to as 'Psychic Surgery', which is the process of locating chunks of energy blocks and removing them from the body. Often I scan the body first, and pain feels like a hot, spiky ball of black gunk to me. Pretty, is it not. Then I project my astral body through the skin (usually just my hands), reach around the block and physically wrench it out. Either I do this astrally or in extreme cases I have to actually pull my hand away from the body to get it out quickly and in one piece.

I distinguish this from Reiki because Reiki is very much about distributing energy through the body and pushing energy into the body. Psychic surgery is very much about removing energy from the body, and not putting any in. I am focusing on ripping blocks and pain out, and then I let the body fill in the holes.

Psychic surgery is quick and effective, but can often be painful in the process of ripping. When I remove a headache, the feeling of the pain being forcibly removed from the skull can be uncomfortable, but it works fast and without tools or sigils or anything so the benefits are sometimes very good. The only tool I sometimes use is Hematite, because it has distinct ripping properties and I fucking love that stone. Place it near a pain center on the body and it rips almost by itself.

The other thing people think of when they hear of Shamanic Healing is Soul Retrieval, which is specific to only some tribes of people and is definitely not called that everywhere, again, thank you core Shamanism.

In my brand of Shamanism, I have come to see the soul as a faceted crystal. When extreme or painful things occur, the soul shatters bit by bit, and pieces can splinter off and fly into the Void. When this happens you're dealing with a psychologically broken or distressed individual, and it's often easy to tell. You're also usually dealing with Auric holes and blockages.

When soul shards are off in the void, it's my job to go find them and convince them back. This is the type of healing that was gifted to me in a dream. I astrally enter the soul-landscape of the person, and search their many rooms and areas until I find something out of place. For one person, it was a series of winged keys, who hid themselves in a 30 foot high set of shelves, amongst hundreds of others. I had to bring them back and kind of reinstall them in their proper places, to complete the soul again.

The effects of losing a soul shard and having it brought back can be immediate and dramatic or long term and slight. The case above was extreme. She literally went catatonic, as if in a walking coma, and I felt a 'call' to do the above listed action. I was really scared and confused because at the time I had never performed a soul retrieval before, and I didn't know that it would even help. But the second I placed my hand over her heart, she responded, and when the soul shard was reinstalled, she came back to herself almost immediately. She sat up, looked around, and asked what happened because she had no memory of anything from the point she went catatonic. Scary but exhilarating proof that this shit actually works. And if you're a proof lover like me, that shit is powerful.

The other type of retrieval I've performed was convincing a guide or totem to come back. Usually they disappear for a while because they guide people other than you, or it's a test, so it's fine. But sometimes the totem or guide is linked with a soul piece and it's a problem when they leave, because you fucked up and shut yourself off or drove them away or continued to do self-hating actions. In that case it's also my job to go see if they'll take you back.

When I perform retrievals, as I said, I look into the person's soul landscape first. Souls look like vast landscapes to me, and the state of the landscape tells me what shape the soul is in. If your giant tree is sitting in toxic water and turning brown, I can tell you have a slow, dangerous problem that is eating you from the inside. If your entire forest is dead but recovering, I can see you're getting over a very bad experience. Sometimes the person requests a retrieval but it isn't necessary: I can gather this from the state of the soul. Believe it or not, sometimes the soul or guides can and WILL help themselves, in which case I don't need to intervene. It's not as if everyone with lost shards absolutely needs my help. People have agency.

I hope you got the gist of that, I'm still extremely busy and scattered.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

STOP EVERYTHING MY ROSES ARE RETURNING

Tired of garden spam yet? Thought not.

Underworld Atlas: Prologue (a note on mechanics)

Thus marks the start of a new series from me intended to describe the various places and beings of the Shamanic underworlds.

It's important for you to realize I differentiate between the Shamanic underworlds and other ones, and that I consider the Astral a different plane entirely than the Shamanic realms. This is due to my speculation there are millions of planes all dealing with different shit, ad infinium.

A note on making the Atlas: As I understand it, the Realms are always in a constant state of flux. As such, a map, you might guess, is actually a useless endeavor. What I HAVE found is, while the location of "elements" on the planes shift on a daily basis, the elements THEMSELVES tend to be the same, at least in idea. What I mean is, while one day The Forest might be near the Mountain region and another around the Styx, in general the Forest area will always be SOMEWHERE on the planes if you look hard enough. Nothing is ever eliminated from the planes without outside intervention, and even then it's very difficult to achieve.

Now, also important to understand is me describing the various aspects I have beheld in my time in the Realms (the Underworlds in this series...) is not a license to go traipsing around there without proper protection and/or skepticism. (see my post at The Bad Witch Files for more on that...) I won't lie to you and tell you everything is all fine and safe and sweetness and whitelight in the Underworlds. It's, how you say, tough country. A fair bit of it is okay most of the time, but some beings and parts of it are not. I will also say those with a Shamanic bent (obviously) will have an easier time in the Underrealms. It just operates on a very 'animistic' (for lack of a better word) axis that is often "dark" and can be frightening to the inexperienced.

Think of it like a large populated city with good and bad areas. Eventually. when you live there, you learn what those are, right? And you take proper precaution when you can't avoid the bad parts. The same rules apply here.

Now, as to purpose. Why exactly am I doing this? Because maybe, if you're like me, you didn't find a single fucking book describing the things you witnessed and saw. Maybe you had no idea if you were going insane because nobody else seemed to be experiencing this crazy shit. Maybe it's true that people see the same things on the Realms with different names and appearances but it really is the same most of the time. Think of it as an informative social/astral experiment. Also, believe it or not, I've been meaning to write on this shit for a long time because I can't keep my thoughts straight sometimes. Forcing me to do it seems to be the best idea.

A note on names: I call it the Underworlds, Under-realms, etc to differentiate between what I call the Upper and Midway planes. You've probably seen the model of the world tree and the 3 realms? Yeah, that's mostly okay except there is a LOT of spider-webbing between them. Metaphorically. You can bounce out of one and into another by accident, so don't think about it too much. Let's just say the 3 realms model is limiting and too binary but good for the sake of semantics, but because the Underworld seems to have the same weird gloomy/misty tone to it all the time I figured it's different from the lofy feel of the Upper realms and the verdant feel of the Midway area. So Underworlds it is.

A note on edibles & astral potions and shit: I may refer to Underworld vegetation and herbology intermittently. If you've never went tripping (I use this word soberly; I have never and will never touch drugs in any context) on the Realms before, you might be confused by this. You don't HAVE to eat on the planes, but you can. It follows, then, that you can consume plant matter into your own astral body on said planes. And if you know what you're doing, the Underworld has some of the most potent healing plants, herbs and flowers available. Just something to keep in mind.

Onward to Atlassing. First up: The Styx.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Garden update!

SHIT IS GROWING. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.


PBP 08: Out of Many, One: A questioning of group and rank in religion

Certificate of achievement comes from Grouchoghandi.com

Sorry I am SO SO SO late on this one, it took me a while to write and I just sent portfolios off for my art school reviews AND put up my art website! EEEsh. Anyway.

Sorry for the rambling/unedited nature of this post; my writing state reflects my mental one.

This week's topic comes from a few conversations I've had over the past couple days, when I was participating in my guilty hated pleasure that I like to call Fighting With People On The Internet. Yes I know it's a really bad habit so I try to actively avoid it, but my fucking Aquarius nature makes me see misinformation on the internet and makes my hands literally itch to correct it. Obviously people don't generally enjoy have flaws in their arguements picked apart into little shreds, and it's not even like I particularly enjoy the practice. I usually end up just as annoyed at the end as I was at the beginning. But I have such an addictive need to do such things.

What this relates to is me glancing upon the Facebook at a really great cover of a magazine detailing women's rights to their own bodies. I casually glanced through the comments as I am wont to do, and saw several people claiming points against the ad, and their backup was "My church is against this."

Now this got me thinking about other times in my life when people use a group as an excuse. When people claim their group and or church is against something, I generally picture this monolothic church-creature mutation with scary stained glass windows for eyes and church doors for a mouth, stomping on things and proclaiming how very much it is against such and such a thing.

I wondered: What do we REALLY mean when we say "My church is against this"? Do you mean the people in power at said church are against something? Or every member of the church? Or the very bylaws and principles of the church? So by so saying, you are claiming you are a single Brain linked to the All-Brain that holds all your principles, know as The Church (or mothership) which you agree with? The idea honestly throws me a little. By so saying, it seems as though the individual has given up their innate critical thinking skills to adopt a place as part of a small spider web network in which they can be handed ideals. If not, why not say "I am against this"? Why "My group"? Are those people looking for validation for a cause, by claiming allegiance with others? Perhaps. But what a strange idea.

I realize not everyone as part of a group thinks this way. I myself was part of a very diverse think-tank of people on various Pagan paths who disagreed on almost everything all the time, and that was a good experience at the time. But I would never profess to speak for my group on anything because we were all so vastly different as people and in what we studied.

I don't propose to say groups are a bad thing, especially in the pagan community where it's often very hard to find groups to support your practices. But groups can become harmful to those involved once they pass a certain threshold.

Example. Remember the group I reffed above? That group fell apart because it passed a threshold. I reveled in the group we all had together precisely because nobody was above anyone else in rank or power, and it was therefore an open space where growth was occurring. The problem happened when one of the members had a problem with 'where I was leading the group', which left me, as you can guess, extremely confused. Our group in my ( and everyone else's) mind was a leaderless think tank, and therein lied the value. How he came to regard me as 'leader' is beyond me, and I have no idea where I was apparently leading a group with no leader. He then resigned, and the rest of the group eventually dissolved. I must account this to either a failing on his part in being in an unstructured group or a failing on mine as acting encyclopedia of random magical thought that apparently came across as a political agenda.

This brings me to my other professed problem with the Group system: 'Rankings'. This has always bothered me, not as an idea unto itself, per say, but as an idea to judge people upon. When I was being raised catholic when I was very small, I couldn't make sense of the idea of a priest. Why would you need someone to be a liason between you and deity, I asked, when you could go and do it yourself? I couldn't see the need for some dedicated person, elected by other people, to be a liason for everyone else. I guess you could claim laziness, but then why participate at all? The idea threw me. Why respect another human as the potential word of deity incarnate when anyone in the room could go talk to said deity themselves?

You must understand I was a very strange child. When I was 8 or 9 I asked my parents why I should be expected to love people in a family I was born into, despite whether or not I found them worthy as human beings. I found blood to be nothing but a circumstance I couldn't change, and I am very loyal once I decide you loyal of the status of 'love', so I was very picky (by nature, not by any sort of choice on my part) with who was worthy. So you might understand why I can't take any accepted thing in the world as a given if the principles neglect to work for me.

So, rankings always struck me as a weird thing. Sure, in society there has always been ranks for those interacting with Deity, but I think it was more due to human lust for power (or a way to dispose of people who weren't fit to be in society, as in the case of several societies) and status than with Deity themselves.

I think a peasant in Egypt who earnestly addressed Bast probably had more success than an appointed Priestess who just wasn't jiving with her energies or was after status. Therefore, I don't necessarily respect a piece of paper or certificate that says this person is a 5th-degree-eagle-eye-ambassador priest to such and such a deity, because I will judge that person's worth and ability for myself upon meeting them and speaking with them regardless of certifications. I have no greater respect for someone holding a rank than someone who does not, mostly because ranks are, again, human-gifted and fallible. I think ranks when used in the context of someone who has necessary knowledge for a skill and has studied longer than someone else are in some ways sensible. But at the same time the only think that rank guarantees is book knowledge and certain sets of practices, and what if someone else practicing as a solitary pagan, for instance, has more knowledge than that? And furthermore, why does it matter?

Why are people in religious organizations drawn to dividing people by rank, at all? If a solitary is gifted the mysteries a rank might afford them by Deity directly, (or a novice in the coven, for instance) what do you do with them? I'm a firm believer in direct initiation by Deity, regardless of where you are. A lot of times you're nowhere near ready when deity decides to approach you.

My feelings on rank based covens in general are at best torn. On the one hand I understand the need for there to be a student teacher relationship, for obvious reasons. But my issue occurs when outsiders in the world regard the words of a priestess of such and such a coven over the words of a solitary as if rank is indicated by knowledge and respect is given accordingly. Look for two moments at the us government and you may observe the falsity of that ideal.

It has happened to me personally that my words were deemed insignificant because of my lack of rank or credentials, and I am attempting to spare other solitaries and coven members that headache by critiquing that idea.

Again, I don't take issue with pleasant respectful people to happen to be apart of a group. I am critiquing the idea specifically of rank, human given, indicating skill, closeness with deity, or or ability. Judge people by action and never by rank. That's all I ask.