Temple Room Efficiency and Efficacy

Finally, I have a trash can in my temple room.  The joy and relief of this simple thing cannot be understated.

In recent weeks, I’ve been getting myself back up and working in the temple again.  It’s a slow build-up, but given the evidence of fancily over-done prettily-filtered photos of shrines and works I’ve put on social media lately, I’m building up for sure, getting reacquainted with the sacred and barbarous names of power I said in…god, what seems like another lifetime, pouring out libations of wine and oil, surrounding myself with clouds and tendrils of frankincense and myrrh and benzoin.  With each new act I perform in the temple, old doors I closed once a while back are opened up again, some slowly inch by inch and others flying wide open at the merest touch, giving me both reminders of things I once did and ideas for things that can yet be done.

And yet, I have to admit, the feel is different now.  Not just because of all the stuff that went on in the meanwhile between when I was templing it up every day, but also because the setting has changed.  I have a much larger, more proper space for temple work in a newer house than where I was living before, which is pleasant, but it hadn’t yet strongly sunk in how different the procedures have to change along with it.  I’m no longer across the hallway from the bathroom for quick water access and feet away from the kitchen, but in a basement room underneath the house.  I no longer have a window facing a field where I can just dump old offerings out from; in fact, I have no windows in the basement room at all.  Though I may have all the constituent parts of my temple supplies and shrines there, it necessitates a completely different system.

And one of the most important things I lacked—until very recently, at least—was a trashcan.  All I had was a simple bag on the floor by the door, which looked tacky and felt off to me, and wasn’t at all convenient for all the cleanup I was doing and constant maintenance of cleaning off surfaces, emptying old tealight tins, throwing away soaked cottonballs or paper towels, or the like.  I didn’t need a trashcan in my temple room for spiritual purposes in and of itself (although there are mysteries in the garbage, to be fair!), but I needed one so I could keep up my spiritual purposes throughout the rest of the temple room.  Being able to just walk a few steps over to dump incense ash or tealight tins or paper towels instead of looking around wondering where to put my debris without having to leave the temple space is a relief I have a hard time putting into words.

For similar reasons, I also bought myself a large pitchers.  It’s nothing fancy, just a simple 2L plastic pitcher like one might bring on a picnic, for the purpose of bringing water down.  From making khernips to washing out bowls to offering glasses of water to spirits, or having something to dump old amounts of water in for easy carrying upstairs to the sink, a pitcher was also something I wasn’t aware I needed so badly.  There were too many times I was caught off-guard and needed to head back upstairs to get to the faucet when everything else was ready to go, but a simple tool like this takes so much of a mental burden off my mind.

Having or running a temple, whether it’s a whole room or a single corner of a bookshelf, is more than just having a bunch of statues and cups established so nicely on shrines and altars, with candles lit and incense filling the airs.  There’s so much more to running a temple that necessitates constant labor and upkeep beyond spiritual obligations.  From organizing and reorganizing shrines, which involves making sure the surfaces and areas for them are physically and spiritually clean, to organizing and replenishing supplies in an orderly, clean, efficient way, there’s labor to maintaining a spiritual practice, both physical and mental.  The physical labor comes in in just keeping things clean, refreshed, and able to be used, and the mental comes in for knowing how to organize, structure, and arrange everything so that nothing, neither schedules nor shrine placement nor sacred substances, conflict with each other.

When you do have your own sacred space, whether it’s a part of a room, a whole room, or more than one room, it’s good to keep your supplies organized and have the right supplies and tools you need, and you have the access to the things you need as well.  Consider the following questions for your own temple space, and see if you can make any refinements based on a few requirements:

  • What is the most convenient way to get water?
  • What is the most convenient way to dispose of liquid waste?
  • What is the most convenient way to dispose of solid non-perishable waste (i.e. candle remains, paper towels, etc.)?
  • What is the most convenient way to dispose of solid perishable waste (i.e. food)?
  • Where will you store generic supplies (candles, incenses, washes, waters, cleaning supplies, etc.)?
  • Where will you store tools when not in use?
  • Where can you sit, kneel, lie down, stand, move around, or have other people do the same in the temple space?
  • Where can others sit or otherwise wait when they’re waiting on being called into the temple space?
  • Will parts of shrines be used as storage, at least for the things relevant for those shrines?
  • How will you clean the temple space as needed?

Besides that, there are a few things I’d recommend to have on-hand, preferably in some sort of storage in the temple space, for any occasion:

  • Paper or cloth towels
  • All-purpose cleaner (dilute vinegar or ammonia works perfectly)
  • Trash can and bags
  • Sink and faucet, or a pitcher for easy carrying of fluids to and from the temple
  • Pen and paper
  • Lighters or matches
  • Chair
  • Extra small tabletop or small surface

I could go on about also having things like a bottle of this or that alcohol, a bag of this or that incense, and so forth, but these are all really and incredibly tradition- and practice-specific.  On the other hand, the stuff listed above is all-purpose for anyone and everyone, regardless of how you’re working, so long as you are.  It’s hard to do any Work if you can’t actually work, and we call it “work” for a reason.  Some people treat their temples like studies, but you don’t have to go that far; so long as you’re ready for tackling any of the mundane stuff that might happen, including your own forgetfulness or an accidental spill, you’ll be ready for starting the Work as well as keeping the Work moving once you start.

On Shrine-hoarding

I’m starting to slowly get back into my temple again for small tasks, hopefully leading up to bigger ones in the future (time and energy permitting, of course, and with the usual caveat that I need to spend my time and energy wisely between work, religion, home, friends, and the like).  As I mentioned in the last post, I’m slowly going through some of the stuff I have, either things I’ve procured or things I’ve made, and am putting some of them up on my Etsy store for others to buy and, hopefully, use in their own works.  Old woodburned placards, prayer beads, necklaces, altar supplies, even some stones and the like are things I’m putting up because…well, let’s be honest, I don’t need them.  I like them plenty, but most of these things aren’t things I’ll miss if I get rid of them.  The really important, vital, or precious stuff is going to stay mine and stay used, but then again, that’s the distinction, isn’t it?  If I use it, or if I know that I actually will use it, then it stays; if not, then it goes.

There’s a difference between stockpiling supplies for future use and simply hoarding stuff.  Raw supplies, stones, dirts, herbs, bones, beads, resins, and the like are all ingredients towards the Work that can be used in any number of ways; those are things that I can always use more of, even if I’m not running low or using at the moment, because they can come in use at the drop of a hat.  Those are things that we should all endeavor to hoard, absolutely, and use as needed.  The other stuff, on the other hand…spare crystal balls, unconsecrated statuary, beaded or otherwise handmade crafts meant for tools but never used for anything more than decoration, or other things that were made for a purpose but never really fulfilled it according to my desires, all those are things that I really have no desire to hold onto except for the sake of sentimentality or beautification.

One of the major hurdles in getting back to my temple work is that, in the…seven or so years I had to set it up, I amassed quite a bit of stuff.  Not a household’s worth, by any means, but I have shrines for the seven archangels, the Virgin Mary, my own guardian angel, the Three Kings, Hermes, Apollo with Asklepios with Dionysos, Aphrodite with Hephaistos, Saint Expedite, and Saints Cyprian, Justina, and Theocistus.  I have a small shrine to Hestia in the living room, and Demeter lives outside.  I have altars for my work for my conjuration/planetary stuff as well as my Mathesis work, and a more recent shrine to the planetary divinity of Saturn.  And all those are things I’ve kept; there are a handful of shrines or altars or other special working areas I’ve set up before and took them down either due to them having completed their purpose or things just not working out how I had planned or wanted.  And then there’s my initiation into La Regla de Ocha Lukumí (aka Santería), where I have a bevy of orisha shrines to maintain and work with (and which I’m marked to receive even more).  If I didn’t have a full-time job with a nontrivial commute, I could swing the determination and discipline to maintain all of these shrines and altars and work, but…I do have a full-time job with a nontrivial commute, and I don’t have the time.   Quite honestly (and it hurts to admit this), all the shrines I have is more than I can actually handle to maintain or keep up with.

To clarify some of my thoughts, let’s start with a bit of a distinction.  For me, an altar is essentially a working space, not meant for worship or veneration as much as actual spiritual or magical works to be done.  Conjuration of spirits, consecration of items, sacrifice of something, establishing crystal/energetic grids, those are all things apt and appropriate for an altar.  I only really have two of those, and while I like to keep them set up and ready to go, I can collapse them and set them up again or change them as needed and as desired.  Then there are shrines, which are meant for the veneration of spirits, gods, saints, or other divinities; shrines serve as a sacred seat or home for a spirit, in my mind, and are a physical representation of the relationship one has with them.  In that sense, for me to evaluate the meaning and need of a shrine is to evaluate the meaning and need of the relationship itself with the spirit of the shrine.  And that itself requires dialog with those spirits, recalling what pacts and vows one has with them, respect for and from those spirits, and honesty with oneself.

This is where my distinction between auturgic and lineage-based work comes into play.  Lineage is easy: you sign up for a specific relationship with a spirit, you’re given a set of terms and conditions to follow, you’re handed the powers and tools you need from your initiator, and boom, you’re set.  Just follow the vows you’ve signed up for, over which you have no say in except to say “yea” or “nay”, and you’re good.  Auturgy, on the other hand, is both easier and much more difficult: you establish your own parameters, vows, pacts, and agreements, and you determine how things work; you need to build your own tools and power and relationships, which can’t be handed to you because there’s nobody to hand them to you.  Most of my work is auturgic in that sense; I’ve built my shrines, I’ve consecrated my statues and talismans, I’ve set up my own protocols and rhythms of prayer and sacrifice for these spirits, and so I have say in how and when and whether these shrines should be established.  On the other hand, my Santería work is lineage-based, so I can’t just up and give Oshún a metal case to live in because I think it’d be more convenient for me; Oshún has what Oshún is supposed to have, what she wants, and what I’m obliged to give her.  More than that, I can’t ignore or just not work with my orisha, as that’d go against the agreements I signed up for with them; I don’t have say in those pacts, and to ignore them is to violate them.  That’s one of the costs—and strengths—of lineage.

But for the shrines (and relationships) that are of my own desire and design…well, there’s the hard choice of whether I want to keep them around, and if so, what really needs to stay on them.  I’ve taken down shrines before; for instance, once upon a time I wanted to set up a shrine to Hades and Persephone as part of a Hellenic approach to working with the spirits of the dead.  It never really got off the ground, even though I had all the supplies and niche set up and everything, so down it went into a box (and, if you’re interested, I still have the unconsecrated Hades statue and offering bowl, in case anyone ever wants to buy it off me).  Then there’s an erstwhile tronco I set up to begin initial work with Quimbanda spirits; I was able to make contact, such as it was, once I had my consulta, but…I never really got anywhere with that, and I didn’t have much of a purpose to work with them given the other works I had going on, and so I worked with them to disassemble the baby-tronco I had and to dispose of their implements in a way they directed and agreed to.  Point is, I’m not ashamed to acknowledge the decline or absence of a sufficiently necessary or stable spiritual relationship to where a shrine is no longer needed, and carry that through.  But, just because I’m not ashamed, doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad about it; sometimes I feel like I failed in maintaining my agreements and plans, and other times I feel bad because I realize that the designs and purposes I had in developing something didn’t turn out the way I hoped for and have to accept that keeping a shrine set up without maintaining it isn’t doing me or the spirit any favors.  I have a few such shrines at home that I really need to talk with to see about just that.

But even then, even for the shrines that I do want to keep set up, there’s the notion of clutter and hoarding things.  I’ve seen some beautiful shrines by other occultists and priests online, and some even in person, where there are these beautiful, intricate, elaborate setups girded by chains and beads and all sorts of everything.  You know, the highly Instagrammable/Facebook viral share-worthy pictures, the ones that are actually done up in real life and not just a temporary setup for a shadow-cloaked shot in the light of a single candle’s flame.  I love the aesthetic, but…I’ve come to realize that I have neither the space nor the means to actually do that for myself, but more than that, I’ve come to realize it’s not my style, either.  I’ve decked out some of my shrines in the past, but I don’t need to live in a city of multiple Parthenons, where each shrine’s district is filled like a forest with votive offerings or whatnot.  Especially with the influence of Santería now, I see the simple elegance of just giving what’s enough and what’s needed for a shrine.  If a particular implement is needed for the functioning of the shrine or the use of the spirit within, by all means, give it!  But decorating it like a Mardi Gras parade and accumulating everything under heaven that even has a shadow of a tangential relationship to that spirit for the sake of having it be pretty is…well, it ends up collecting more dust than it’s worth.

A shrine doesn’t need much to be effective: an image or physical representation of the spirit, maybe a place to set lights or incense, maybe some implements or tools directly associated with them that one has a strong feeling (if not an explicit or confirmed directive) to provide, perhaps some supplies to be left in the care of the spirit until it can be used in workings with or without them.  Space is at a premium, after all, in my temple room and house, and a shrine doesn’t often need that much space.  Barring specific protocols or vows, anything else is probably just decoration for the sake of the devotee and not the divine.  To accumulate more and more of those latter accouterments is just…hoarding.  Having more shrines than you need is likewise hoarding.  Both of which eventually become a burden, both to maintain the cleanliness of even a single shrine as well as to maintain your relationships with those spirits, and unless you’re actually getting something out of that arrangement, perhaps it might be better to cut back, both on the shrines as well as the stuff within them.  After all, you don’t need to be a dragon to be a devotee, and we’re not often worshiping dragons that demand devotional donations.  (Of course, if you are, then different rules apply.)

That’s one of the reasons why I’m going through my temple and cutting back both on the shrines and the stuff within them.  If I’m not maintaining a relationship with a spirit, or if that spirit isn’t maintaining a relationship with me, then there’s no real need for a shrine; it’d be best to disassemble it respectfully and confer with the spirit on how and where their sacred things should be disposed of, or if they can be given to another to care for them.  (Yes, Justice, I’m aware, and I haven’t forgotten, forgive me my lateness!)  If the spirit still wants to stay and I don’t want to maintain the shrine, then an agreement can likely be brokered to pare down the shrine to a minimum, shrink it, or hold onto something to make a temporary shrine with later as needed; temporary shrines, set up on unused or other working tables, are a great way to carry out devotional work every once in a while that aren’t otherwise a full-time thing.  Otherwise, if the shrine really is to stay as a permanent installation, then I’d go through all the things on it, see what’s not necessary or essential to the shrine, and consult with the spirit on how and where to dispose of the other things that they’re okay with parting with, whether it should just be thrown out respectfully, sold, given as a gift, or used for another purpose.  It depends, and it’s a careful, sometimes heart-scouring process, but a necessary one that I need to go through.  There are some things I want to get rid of, honestly, but the spirits are adamant I keep, whether for their own use or for my own in working with them, and it requires honesty and openness to be aware of these things.

I suppose that clearing out my temple room (and the other sacred spaces in my house more generally), taking a thorough account of my spiritual relationships with my courts and pantheons, and seeing what I really need for my Work is the first step to really getting back to working with them all.  After all, I can’t go into my temple for single-minded work if I dread walking in due to all the reminders of the missed offerings, forgotten festivals, and dust gathered on them distracting me for the purpose I walked in for.  If I don’t want to be distracted, then I need to fix the distractions, and in order to do that, I need to fix my shrine situation accordingly in a way that is best for both me and them.  Only then can I be really sure about my Work, my physical and spiritual spaces, and my spirits and the relationships I have with them.  And, hey, in the process, if I uncover any goodies that I don’t need or want anymore, someone else might be lucky enough to get them for something they need or want.  Besides, I have future projects I want to plan, and should any of those require shrines or a permanent installation of some sort…well, I’ll have to evaluate if I need to give anything else up to make the time, energy, and space for it, and whether I really need to go down that route, if nothing else will do.

If you’re facing a similar situation, then it might be well for you to do a similar disassembly and decluttering of shrines and shrine stuff.  We can’t all be full-time priests tending to and taking care of all these temples of our own design; with our limited time and energy, we can only take care of what we must and what we really need to.  Be honest with yourself, and be honest with your spirits.  If you need to limit your practice to just one or two things, then let your temple or sacred spaces look and function accordingly.  Hoarding shrines may make us look cool and hardcore, but as many occultists learn at some point, we’re in this for more than just looking cool.  If you can manage that while also getting the Work done, awesome!  If not, then simplify and focus on the Work.  They say, after all, that simplicity is the highest form of elegance; some people, like myself, could do with taking that to heart.

You probably stink. Take a bath.

(Update 1/10/2018: Interested in more about this ritual?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Towards the end of last year, I visited some friends up in New England, one of whom is a Tata Quimbanda, or a Quimbandero priest.  It was fascinating to see how he worked, and the tradition of Quimbanda (about which I knew next to nothing beforehand) suddenly struck me as something potentially useful and interesting; I’ve since been reading about it and getting started in my own little layman way to build a relationship with the spirits I’ve been recommended to work with, my personal Exu and Pomba Gira and a few other spirits that go along with them.  This was all found out by means of a consulta, basically a Quimbanda check-up that determines what’s going on.  From what I noticed, they use the same divination system as in Palo or in Santeria with four shells, chamalongos, so I was able to keep up with what was going on despite the frequent use of Kikongo and Portuguese in prayers.  Thing was, pretty much every answer came up the same, the one that means “ask again”.  Usually when this happens, it means that there’s a lot of resistance or blockages in the situation, and the consulta was finished with the tata going “baths baths baths baths baths baths baths”.

So, clearly, I needed a bath.  Lots of them, actually.

According to the consulta, I have a bit of an infestation of kiumbas, which can be thought of as spiritual leeches or obsessive manes from the Roman tradition.  This happens, largely, when one isn’t cleaning off properly over a period of time and you get so spiritually icky that the ick starts to coalesce and latch onto you, or when you get into a dirty situation and don’t clean off immediately to get rid of the dirt.  And, truth be told, I haven’t been banishing a lot lately; I’ve been taking a daily ablution before the gods as all I usually need with the very occasional angelic banishing ritual I picked up from Fr. Rufus Opus years ago.  I do make a habit of washing off with a few things, like Florida water, after visiting graveyards or hospitals (which I’ve recently found out is a rule I should be following regardless), but beyond that, I generally don’t do a lot of deep and thorough cleansing.  I thought I didn’t need to, and I was wrong.

The tata had said that this is actually a common thing with a lot of ceremonial magicians as a part of the work we do.  Our main line of working involves working with spirits in different planes, notably conjuring spirits below (demons and shades) and spirits above (angels and planetaries), as well as spirits of this plane (elementals).  Kiumbas don’t necessarily belong to souls of the dead, but of any plane and of any type; they’re like aggregations of ick, and every plane has its own kind of ick.  Crossing the planes, calling down various forces, and the like brings down a lot more than just the spirit we’ve called, I’ve come to find, and over time they stick without proper banishing and cleansing, and calling down those same forces to get rid of the stuff they’re familiar with sometimes doesn’t do as thorough a job as they’re held to do.  They get rid of most of it, but not all of it.

And, honestly, I’ve noticed that since my jaunt to nine different graveyards in one night without properly cleaning off afterwards, several spiritual parties, a few workings here and there, and the like done clustered together last year, my practice and life has generally gotten “stuck”.  Problems were slow and subtle, but getting bigger without my conscious knowledge of it.  I found myself having less and less time for practice and more and more time for vain, petty shit.  At one point, a small detail blew up into almost a nervous breakdown for me, opening up a Pandora’s box of emotional baggage I thought I had chained and buried years ago.  So…yeah, I probably needed a bath to fix all that shit up.

To that end, I was recommended to start taking lots of spiritual baths and to keep taking them periodically.  Honestly, this is something I should have been doing all along, but before this consulta I had only taken one or two spiritual baths since I started practicing the occult back in 2011.  So, starting at the beginning of January, I dusted off my notes and combined mine with the herbs and recommendations from the tata, and begun a series of baths that will last me through the rest of January and which I’ll do at least once a month from here on out.

The manner of a spiritual bath I use involves repeated immersions in consecrated water designed to cleanse your body and spirit in combination with praying the Seven Penitential Psalms.  The whole process takes an hour to do at most, so be sure you can have that amount of time alone to yourself without being disturbed.

  • A tub full of hot water
  • A glass of holy water
  • A consecrated candle
  • A Bible (preferably a cheap one)
  • Holy oil or Abramelin oil
  • A clean white or lightly-colored towel
  • Clean white clothes
  • Optionally, some Florida water or Kölnisch Wasser and/or Van Van oil
  • Optionally, holy incense like frankincense
  • Optionally, an herbal wash prepared in a large bowl

The procedure:

  1. Before drawing the bath, take a shower first.  Be thorough and wash every part of your body, including the anus and feet.  Use shampoo, soap, body wash, or whatever you prefer, but be thorough.  Dry off as normal, preferably with an older towel or another cloth that isn’t the white towel.
  2. Draw the tub full of hot water.  While it’s filling, brush and floss your teeth, clean out your ears, and whatever personal hygiene activities you normally do.  If you choose, add in a few drops of Van Van oil and a small amount of Florida water or Kölnisch Wasser into the tub as it fills.  Also, if you want to finish the bath with an herbal wash, prepare it now in a bowl set aside with hot water.
  3. Set the candle somewhere above the tub in the bathroom.  Light it and consecrate the flame.  If you choose, light some incense and do the same.
  4. Take the glass of holy water (a shotglass will suffice) and pray over the water, pouring the holy water into the tub in a cross formation.  Pray the Our Father, Glory Be, and Hail Mary over the tub of water.
  5. Step into the tub and begin soaking in it.  Let your skin get used to the heat first before continuing.
  6. Immerse yourself completely in the water.  If you’re big and have a small tub, this may take several repositionings of the body and at least one dunk of the head.
  7. Pray the Asperges Me.  Before crossing yourself, take a handful of water so that you wash yourself with the tubwater as you cross yourself.
  8. Say slowly and firmly the first Penitential Psalm (Ps. 6) from the heart.  Use the copy of the Bible, but be sure not to drop it or get it wet in the water.
  9. Pray the Our Father, Glory Be, and Hail Mary.  Like before, before crossing yourself, take a handful of water so that you wash yourself with the tubwater as you cross yourself.
  10. Silently recount why you’re taking this bath: whatever transgressions you have done, whatever bad situations you have found yourself in, the problems in your life that have arisen, all the spiritual ick on your body, soul, spirit and mind.  Let them go into the water, dissolving into nothing while leaving you and your sphere clean.
  11. Repeat steps 7 through 10 for each of the other Pentitential Psalms (Pss. 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143).
  12. Stand up and begin draining the tub.  Pray from the heart that you be clean and cleansed in body, soul, spirit, and mind and freed from all pain, plague, poison, illness, injury, infirmity, death, disease, and defilement, and that you be made pure and perfect despite of and because of your imperfections.
  13. If you chose to make an herbal wash, get the bowl and pray over it that it accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish with it (cleansing, empowerment, defense, etc.).  Pour it over your head slowly so that some liquid runs down the front of your body and some runs down the back, repeating the prayer the whole time.  With your hands, wash yourself from top to bottom with the wash, not forgetting the more sensitive and hard-to-reach parts of your body.
  14. Air dry from the bath.  Take the white towel and put it on the ground, in front of a fan or heater is ideal, and sit on it until you’re sufficiently air-dried.  If you can’t afford the time for this, dry off with the towel from the neck down, leaving the head to air-dry.
  15. Put on the clean, white clothes.  Take the holy oil and cross yourself on the forehead and back of the neck, praying Psalm 23.  This “seals in” the effect of the bath and insulates yourself a bit from external things until the effects of the bath are completely settled into your sphere.

That’s basically my procedure for taking a spiritual bath.  Yes, it’s a little long, and I do get a little faint from spending that much time in a hottub constantly praying and reimmersing myself, but it works.  The mental clarity and stability I have afterwards is hard to obtain in other ways, and it’s such a dramatic shift that for the first few baths I felt physically like shit but mentally awesome and brilliant.  Be careful if you have any medical condition that prevents you from spending so much time in a hot bath; adjust the heat if you need to.

Getting Burnt by the Stars, part 2: Stop Worrying and Love the Burn

Last time, I talked about the costs of magic.  It sucks, and it costs, and it will burn everything from your bank account to your soul itself, but magic is worth it.  Magic is the locked gate that keeps higher fulfillment and human realization from most of the world, and magic is the golden key that unlocks the mysteries to attaining them.  It may have a high price, but it has an even higher payoff that makes magic worth it.

Being a magician for only a few years now, but having the success and results of people who’re far older than I am (I credit having good teachers, good friends, and good allies abounding), I’ve learned a few things that helps in minimizing the burn, or at least in maintaining onself through being burned, so as to keep on keeping on.  This works for me, and I can only suggest it as part of a daily practice and regular maintenance in any magician’s life.  Even these steps may suck at times, but they help overall in minimizing the real burn going on from the real magic.

  1. Sanitize.  Keep your entire sphere clean and cleansed, from the basest material components to the highest intellectual and divine ones.  Air out your house, vacuum your carpets, sweep the floorboards, dust the fanblades, wash the car, light the candles, burn the camphor, sprinkle the holy water, clean all the things.  Asperge yourself with holy water or other cleansing agents frequently.  Do regular banishing and force balancing on yourself.  Recleanse and reconsecrate your tools, talismans, and ritual space every so often.  The more astral dirt you accrue by tracking it in from the higher spheres, or the more dust you bring in from inviting higher ups down into your house, the more confused and imbalanced things get down here and up there alike.  Keep yourself, your surroundings, your tools, and your mind clean, cleansed, and clear.
  2. Learn.  You can’t do anything if you don’t know how to do it.  Read any and all books you can get your hands on magic, philosophy, religion, spirituality, mathematics, literature, mythology, archaeology, linguistics, folk traditions, fiction ancient and new, science, engineering, history, economics, crafting, and more.  Take classes in whatever you have an interest in, whether it’s related to magic or not.  Talk with friends about their hobbies, experiences, stories, advice, warnings, hopes, dreams, fears, and desires.  Expanding your mind also expands the potential horizons you can explore, no matter how innocuous or trivial something may seem.  Don’t harbor any biases on what you read, study, or discuss; keep an open mind and admit anything with practical merit.  Go on roadtrips just to see new things.  Walk in big cities to see new faces and fashions.  Read blogs with political opinions opposite yours (but are well-written and reasoned).
  3. Protect.  If you’ve got one foot in the door to get into the mysteries, you also leave the door ajar for ethereal nasties to come at you.  Don’t let them.  Set up barriers, shields, or guards around your house.  Make protective charms, phylacteries, or enchanted trinkets to keep on yourself.  Find out what force you best resonate with and manipulate it to act as a shield around you.  Always keep an eye out for anything awry or ominous.  Create a few magical or ritual weapons to call on or call up when needed.  Create magical oils or incenses to keep out bad things and keep in good things.  Be mindful of barriers, boundaries, and circles that have already been erected.  Don’t go looking for bad stuff just to mess with it for shits and giggles.
  4. Breathe.  Breathing is the source of life down here, and aspiration shares the same root with “inspiriation” and “spirit”.  By knowing, feeling, and controlling our breath we control our voice level, our speech and diction, our bloodflow, our thought patterns, and ultimately ourselves who are tied into material reality just as we are into spiritual reality.  Breathing is the crux of meditation, and meditation is the crux of knowing yourself, which is the holiest injunction humanity has.  Breathing, just breathing, is magical in and of itself; it’s what animates us, ensouls us, and keeps us alive and living.  Breathing is the foundation of magic, and breathing must be known, understood, and integrated constantly with oneself in order to progress.
  5. Pray.  Humans, powerful as we are, were never meant to be alone in any sense of the word, nor can we make it to our goals on our own.  We need help, and prayer is how we obtain it.  Pray for guidance, for patience, for mercy, for compassion, for humility, for forgiveness, for health, for sight, for knowledge, for wisdom, for authority, for power, for light (and in that order).  Pray the Source, the gods, the angels, the celestials, the elementals, the dead, and each other for their blessings, advice, guidance, alignment, unity, and boons.  Pray to know how to use the blessings and boons given to us to the best of our abilities and for the best result for all of us.  Pray with praise, pray with emotion, pray with silence.  Pray with your entire body, soul, spirit and mind.  Pray every day, pray several times a day.  Pray.
  6. Stay healthy.  Humans are amphibious, both spiritual and physical.  Magic is largely focused on the spiritual, but it always needs to bring the spiritual and astral down into the material and physical.  Be sure you don’t neglect your body, because that’s the primary vehicle you have to work magic, and the one tool you’ll always have with you in the world.  Get enough sleep every night.  Go to bed at the same time every night.  Get enough to eat every day, but no more.  Eat the proper things in the proper amounts.  Shower, wash your hair, brush your hair, brush your teeth, floss your teeth, exfoliate, deodorize.  Get at least half an hour of light physical activity every day.  Expose yourself to the elements once every so often.  Go outside and enjoy the sunlight, moonlight, starlight, wind, mist, clouds, rain, rivers, oceans, dirt, trees, and animals.  “Healthy” has its roots in the same word as “whole”, and you need to stay whole physically in order to spiritually progress wholesomely.
  7. Get dirty.  Actually go out into the world and remind yourself that you’re still a physical, material being that has physical, material needs.  Everything in moderation, yes, but also including moderation: get sick, get jacked up, get fucked up, get high, get rich, get poor, get happy, get sad, get angry, get lonely, get loved.  We’re human beings to experience human life, after all, and without that experience we’ve ultimately failed at out birth’s purpose.  Getting ourselves meshed in human life, living in the world while not wholly of it, helps keep things in perspective and shows the power of the cleansing, cleaning, Light-bearing work we’re doing.  Plus, getting dirty helps us realize that even the dirt is pure and holy, that nothing is truly separate from the Source from which it came.
  8. Do it.  Complain however much you like or don’t complain at all; magic is going to suck no matter what.  That doesn’t change the fact that you’re a magician to do magic.  Do it.  Do it now.  There’s no other way, time, or place to do it.  Just do it.

The more you burn up, the more of you there is to burn until burning doesn’t need to happen anymore.  Don’t worry about what’s burnt up and gone.  Worry about what you have left to burn and what can still be purified and transmuted into the pure divine essence we really are and should be.

I’m prone to gingivitis, the inflammation of the gums generally from plaque.  Part of it’s my own dietary and hygienic habits, and part of it is my genetics and natural body’s processes.  That doesn’t mean I need to have gingivitis, much less that I should.  How do I keep my gums clean and free from the disease?  More toothbrushing, flossing daily, rinsing with mouthwash, and watching what and when I eat.  Does this all get easier with time?  Nope; it still takes as much time the hundredth day as it did the first, the same spots in my gums still need maintenance, and my food choices are still as obnoxious as ever.  Is the payoff worth it?  Totally; my teeth are whiter, my breath stinks less, my gums bleed less, and my mouth is generally healthier than before.  The payoff here is worth the cost of the daily maintenance, and if (heavens forbid) I ever have to go under for a root canal or other major dental operation, it’ll all go easier before, during, and after due to my lack of gingivitis and better oral care.

Magic works much the same way.  Dealing with the raw forces of creation and the stars is dangerous and you risk not being able to handle the influx of those energies without the proper maintenance.  Laying the foundation of daily practice to stabilize, sanctify, and secure your life goes a long way in dealing with the heavy machinery of the cosmos.  If you don’t have the rest of your house in order, don’t expect good times to result when you invite emissaries and presidents of foreign planes of existence in.  If you have your house and life in order and prepared in the proper way, you’ll still have to go through the paperwork and shopping and security drama, but the emissaries and presidents will be more pleased, more willing, and more able to help you who’ve helped yourself so much without them.  Daily or regular mainteance takes time and effort all in itself, and that’s not even where the real heart of magic lies, but it’s that very same regular maintenance that builds the tower to get to it.