Magical Practice and Mental Health

It’s no secret that those of us who are into alternative religions, spiritual practices, magic, witchcraft, and the like aren’t exactly “normal”, according to the definitions of contemporary Western society.  Sure, we may put on nice masks and clean suits to at least quell any suspicion that we’re anything out of the ordinary, but we’re not the type of people whom most people would call sane or safe.  Heck, even among different types or traditions of magicians and pagans, we have people saying “I don’t do that weird stuff” or “this is too crazy for me”.  Eh, it happens.

I think, however, that most of us aren’t actually clinically unsound.  Sure, we’re not exactly the most conventional of people, but we’re not off-our-rockers unstable; we might be crazy, but we’re not insane.  If anything, we’re pushing the boundaries of what sanity means, but still able to operate in sound ways that relate theory and faith to experiences and actions down here in the world of matter and flesh, and even then, that’s only for a subset of the more exploratory, experimental magicians out there.  Many of us are content with getting that little extra boost towards achieving our goals, not world-shattering enlightenment and gods-gifted godhood (although I think everyone should reach for those latter two goals, it being our Hermetic birthright, and all).

Then again, the foregoing only goes for most of us.  As with any group of people, there are going to be a subset of people who aren’t as mentally sound, who aren’t as sane, who aren’t as stable as the rest.  And, like with any group of people, the hotter a mess you are, the louder and more visible you get.  And that’s a problem.

I’m sure you, dear reader, have heard of the stories that Enochian magic drives people insane, or that so-and-so got into this particular tradition and came out a complete loon, or other such anecdotal stories.  I don’t really believe any of them; it’s exceedingly rare that it’s a particular tradition or spirit or prophecy or what-have-you that drives people insane.  It’s much more frequent, not to mention plausible, that those problems were always already there, more latent in some than others, and that their experiences (intentionally or unintentionally, malefically or beneficially) exploited those small cracks into full-blown chasms.  This makes sense, after all; if you have anger problems but are generally well-composed enough to not let them show in the office, working with a lot of Fire or Mars will make it harder to keep your cool; if you have depression but get by on a day-to-day basis, working with Saturn or Water will make it harder to keep afloat; if you have issues with being overly prideful, working with the Sun will make it harder to recognize the achievements and contributions of others.  It’s not a hard stretch to see how working with particular forces can easily knock us off balance with our temperaments, emotions, thoughts, and actions, which is why part of the job is to healthfully and properly incorporate these powers in ourselves, regulating them instead of being overridden by them.

But for those who already have mental issues, magic can be outright dangerous, more than it is for most people.  If you’re emotionally unstable, adding emotionally powerful things to your life can wreck you.  If you’re impulsive, working with spirits who demand contracts (and often much more) can ruin your life by leaping before you look into a deep, deep pit.  Sure, magic can help lives, but it can just as easily hurt lives.  That’s why it’s often so important to have a community or a teacher with you, if for nothing else than to act as a magical spotter or as someone to point out “hey, you’re not acting right, when was the last time you cleaned off?”.  Teachers guide and help us through our mistakes or help us avoid them altogether; communities develop conventions and practices as a whole that keep everyone up and running in a healthful relationship.  That’s why, even in the more popular stories about witches and wizards, it’s always the loner that causes problems.  Not to pass moral judgment on loners out there or to say that the community is always right, but when it comes to the sanity and health of magicians, having people around you as contacts and support is usually a plus.

It doesn’t help that our contemporary Western society isn’t the greatest when it comes to dealing with mental health.  Sure, we’ve come a long, long way in the past few hundred years, but it’s still not adaptive, responsive, or holistic enough to go beyond “you have this syndrome, take this pill” for the vast majority of people.  There are lots of people out there whose problems intertwine the spiritual and mental, and since modern scientific approaches outright deny the spiritual, we end up with an institution that cannot well serve those who suffer.  As a result, many magical and spiritual practitioners find themselves to be the care providers for people, and this is…pretty shitty, to be honest.  So few of us have the proper training, expertise, or background knowledge to accurately assess or describe unsafe mental conditions, and yet we find people on our doorstep with “spiritual issues” that are making people literally insane.  We’re not qualified to help, but we’re the only ones in a position to even recognize some of the issues at hand.  It’s a terrible situation.

Guys, be warned, and take a few things to heart from this:

  • If you’re just getting into magical practices, make a critical self-assessment of your health in all respects, and be aware of any problems that might arise when developing yourself.  You may not be able to practice mental health like a doctor would, but at least you can recognize when mental issues arise in the people around you and work with them to get them the help they need.
  • If you’re generally sound of mind and body, consider augmenting your magical practice with psychology and mental health studies, especially if you plan to work with or on behalf of clients.
  • Everyone could use an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on, and a hand to hold.  Everyone needs a therapist at some point, whether they’re an official and licensed one or just a friend to guide them through a tough period.
  • If you have problems, get help.  There are many resources available to you, both spiritual and otherwise.  Don’t assume your problems are purely spiritual or purely mental until proven otherwise; explore all avenues, and seek out help no matter the source.
  • If you need help, don’t delay getting help.  There is no shame in reaching out for help, even if it’s just to a friend.  Don’t think that you need to improve on yourself first to be more responsive to getting help; don’t think that you’re so advanced that other people can’t give you a leg up.
  • If you notice other people trying and then giving up trying to help you, especially if this forms a pattern, notice it and realize that you might actually have a problem.  It’s like the inverse of the situation where if you find yourself having to curse all these assholes around you, maybe it’s not them who’s the asshole, but you.  If you find that all these magical practitioners and spiritual guides can’t or are unwilling to help you, it might not be that they’re useless or spiteful of you, but that you have problems that they’re not able to tackle because you need more serious help than they’re able to provide.

Geomantically Forecasting the Weather

Divination is the art and practice of obtaining knowledge about unknown things, and every culture in every area in every era has developed their own forms for it.  As I’ve mentioned before, divination relies on both intuition and technique, though the amounts of each varies between different styles of divination.  On the purely intuitive side, we have prophecy, being possessed by spiritual beings to communicate, and straight-up clairvoyance and clairsentience, things that just happen through purely spiritual means with no tools or symbols necessary.  Somewhere in the middle, we have methods that interpret omens that are collected through a methodical way, such as the shuffling and setting out of Tarot cards, analysis of the motions of the planets in astrology, and the generation of charts of geomantic figures.  Generally, divination is considered a spiritual practice, so we often consider intuition (the spiritual component of this method of obtaining knowledge) to be a necessary component of divination, with technique helping us to focus and sharpen our intuition.

However, this doesn’t preclude us from using purely technique-based methods to learn about the unknown, either, and this is where entirely nonspiritual people will happily join in on prediction.  Methods that use mathematical or physical models, rely on extrapolation from historical data, and guessing at the interplay of different factors based on likelihood are all purely technique-based methods of “divination”, such as economic forecasts or the prediction of planetary motion based on astronomical models.  This type of prediction is the most commonly accepted nowadays, given the general lack of spirituality in our modern culture, and one of the most common things we use to predict with these technique-only prediction methods is the weather through meteorological models and forecasting.  Sure, it can be vague at times, and distant meteorological events can be near impossible to predict, but it has a pretty high rate of success especially in the short term.

Of course, you don’t need to be a meteorologist to predict the weather, and proper divination systems have their own means to determine the weather of future time periods.  This makes sense, since the weather is among the most important factors shaping our daily lives for years at a time.  Farmers rely on weather to grow their crops; sailors rely on weather to sail safely; commuters rely on weather to know to bring an umbrella or just take the subway.  The weather is a vital part of our lives, and divination can step up to the plate quite nicely to predict the weather just as any Weather Channel or NOAA forecast can, and can be even more useful to get a good picture of the weather months in advance when meteorological models are essentially useless.

Geomancy, especially, is quite nice at predicting weather.  In the astrological house of a geomantic reading, the weather is assigned to house X, the house of the midheaven.  This house spatially represents the zenith of the Sun in the sky, and the sky generally, so it makes sense that the weather is given to this house.  To figure out what the weather will be on a given day, or more generally for a week or any other timeframe, simply inspect the figure in house X.  The two main qualities of the figure to check for are element and stability.  The elements within the figure, and the overall element of the figure generally, indicate the general type of weather; the stability of the figure (stable or mobile) indicate whether the weather will stay the same throughout the day or whether it will change.

Generally speaking the figures indicate the following types of weather:

  • Populus: Very rainy, cool
  • Via: Good, but rain likely
  • Albus: Wholesome, little to no rain, cool and calm
  • Coniunctio: Unwholesome due to rain, little to no wind
  • Puella: Fair but rainy at times, warmer than otherwise
  • Amissio: No rain, clear and breezy, temperate
  • Fortuna Maior: Excellent, wholesome
  • Fortuna Minor: Fair and hot turning to bad
  • Puer: Fair, clear, wholesome, tending to hot
  • Rubeus: Windy, unwholesome, tending to coolness
  • Acquisitio: Clear, fair
  • Laetitia: Clear and bright, calm, hot
  • Tristitia: Cold, dark, shadowy, dry
  • Carcer: Not good, unwholesome, dry
  • Caput Draconis: Clear, wholesome, cool
  • Cauda Draconis: Bad, wet, stormy, unwholesome

Of course, you’d need to take in the time of year and climate into account depending on the timeframe and location of the weather forecast.  For instance, a cold day in Seattle is different from a cold day in Houston, just as a cold day in January is different from a cold day in July.  Precipitation, too, should be factored in as different types depending on location and climate; rain in a place where subfreezing temperatures are common can be well-expected to fall as snow rather than showers.  Weather is not the same as climate, of course, and climate is generally known ahead of time.  The climate and location of the place to be forecasted will help provide a context that can help whittle down the general types of weather indicated by the figures.

A note about the list above: some of the figures are mentioned as “wholesome” or “unwholesome”, and this goes back to an older idea that the weather and airs generally have substantial effects on our health and well-being.  Wholesome weather is that which is good and healthy for us: neither too dry to suck the moisture from our lungs, nor too wet to weigh us down with extra moisture, nor too hot to burn and overly excite us, nor too cold to freeze us and keep us hunkered down.  Unwholesome weather has a higher chance of making us feel unwell, out of breath, slow in mind and body, and the like.  It goes back to the system of humours, where the human body is dominated by the four bodily fluids of yellow bile or choler (Fire), blood (Air), phlegm (Water), and black bile or melancholy (Earth).  Keeping ourselves healthy requires keeping a balance of these humours, which can be influenced by food, drink, music, and the weather, amongst other things.  Unwholesome weather has a higher chance of something extreme happening or provide conditions for us to get too wrapped up in one element or another that can cause us to be unwell.

Asking what the weather will be like is a simple enough question, but asking how and whether it will affect parts of our lives is quite another.  This is where other rules of geomancy come into play, such as that of perfection.  For instance, if you want to know whether the weather will impede your progress on a long-distance road trip, throw a chart and see whether houses X (weather) and IX (long-distance travel) perfect.  If they do, the weather will cause problems; if they don’t, the weather won’t be an issue no matter what it is.  Further, in charts like this, if the figure in house I (the querent) as well as that of house X perfect with house IX, then the weather will impede the journey but the querent will make the trip anyway; if house X perfects with house IX and house I but house I doesn’t perfect with house IX, then the weather will impede the journey so much that the querent won’t make the trip at all because of the weather.  If none of the houses perfect, then the weather won’t affect the journey, but the querent won’t make the journey anyway.

Because we often want to know about how the weather will affect our plans in our lives rather than just what the weather is itself, weather predictions are some of the most common to use multiple significators in the chart besides house I and house X.  Other houses for geomantically forecasting the weather include:

  • House III: Local events, short-distance travel
  • House IV: agriculture, land, crops and harvests
  • House V: rivers, parties, growth of biennial/perennial plants (and plants generally)
  • House IX: long-distance travel, seas, ships, planes
  • House XI: get-togethers, work outings, well-being of friends or social groups, annual plants

John Michael Greer notes in The Art and Practice of Geomancy that house V should be inspected for rain, though the logic for this confuses me.  Perhaps it’s just to confirm the likelihood of rain as described by house X, but I’ve never needed such a confirmation.  His rule is that you check to see whether one or both of the figures in house X and house V are moist (Air and Water); if both are, rain is certain; if only one is, rain is uncertain but possible; if neither are, rain is not predicted.

Probably the most memorable experience I had using weather forecasting with geomancy was to predict the weather on my college graduation day.  For years before my own graduation, graduation day was always marked by rain, oftentimes heavy enough to move ceremonies indoors, and when my college campus was already packed to capacity, this was a hard thing to coordinate at the last minute!  Several months before my graduation, I ran a chart to determine what the weather would be like on my own graduation day, and the figure I got was Fortuna Minor.  The interpretation I got would be that the day would start off good but turn bad later on, so yes, it would rain, but after graduation itself was over with (which was scheduled in the late morning, anyway).  Graduation day came around, and the forecast from NOAA was to be clear for the whole day, and it started of bright, clear, and also exceptionally warm for a late May morning; we were thankful for our mortarboards and the orientation of the events to keep the sun out of our faces.  Later on during the program-specific ceremonies, however, it began to cloud up, and it began to rain just as I finally took off my cap and gown and headed home to drop off my diploma.  Exactly as I expected: it started off good and ended with rain after graduation itself was done.  Not bad for a few dots.

New Year, New You: Prompt 7, “Glamour”

Yes, yes, I know, I’m doing this out of order.  I haven’t done the sixth prompt yet on maps, sacred spaces, and goals, but I’m late and Deb’s more recent prompt is so much more readily available and easily writable.  The seventh prompt is about appearances and presenting oneself to the world and other people, and how to make oneself look awesome if not their damn best.

Well, as it turns out, dear reader, I’ve been going through some changes lately.  Up until last Wednesday, about a week ago, I had a respectable beard, shaggy hair, and glasses.  Then I shaved the beard (even the sideburns!) and cut the hair rather short, then I got contacts, and then I got my ears pierced.  I’m still in the shock phase about the ears being pierced bit, because even I’m still getting used to how I look.  Needless to say, my friends were caught off-guard, and my family hasn’t seen it yet save my sister via Skype. Plus, now that the new year festivities (all of them) are finally in the past, I can focus again on settling down into a stable simple diet that my body approves of, which will help shed a few more pounds.  Also, I ended up buying a few new clothes and affects in the shopping spree that was last weekend, so a good number of things have changed in a rather short time.  That’s what you get for playing with fire energies for two weeks straight (a post on that coming soon).

Let’s go through a few of the items Deb proposes in the prompt:

  • Makeup’s not my thing.  Never been much into theater or drag, and I’m on the more masculine end of the spectrum anyway, so I don’t have a need for that kind of cosmetic.
  • I’ve got plenty of clothes, and it mostly fits me appropriately.  I’m not big into tailoring, and the farthest my skills go with mending are fixing buttons and inside tears, but I would like some more fitted shirts.  If I do start getting clothes altered, it won’t be until later this year when I have more money to throw around recklessly and my next student loan (or both of them!) are knocked out of the way.  I’m not missing anything, save for perhaps more snappy shirts or pants, but I’ve got plenty of things to cover a wide variety of situations and styles.  Especially Middle Eastern clothes, I love that shit.  (Check out Shukr for good styles.)  Also, when I got contacts last week, I also went ahead and got a new pair of (rather expensive) stylish glasses.  I’m excited!  In tandem with the piercings and recent interest in industrial/electronica, I’m tempted to start exploring more goth-ish styles of appearances.  To be explored.
  • Ever since I was warned about the beginnings of gingivitis showing up on my gums late last year, I’ve taken hygiene much more stringently with myself.  Yes, I’m brushing my teeth thoroughly twice a day with flossing and tongue-scraping; I’m using astringent with salicylic acid to take care of a few zit problems, I’m using the proper amount of high-quality shampoo and conditioner for my hair in a proper manner (twice or thrice a week), and I’m trying to cut out nailbiting.  You’d be surprised how easy it is to pick that habit up if you’ve got thin nails, oddly enough.
  • I eat healthily enough, and it’s very far and few between that I have something as heavily processed as fast food or premade meals.  I only just brought out my microwave from storage so I can heat up water for cleansing my piercings in a jiffy, so I end up cooking almost everything I eat.  I drink when I’m thirsty, and tend to stick to coffee, tea, water, and milk (in that order); when pressed, I’ll down an energy drink, but that’s about it (I’m a caffiend, after all).  I don’t, however, do much physical activity.  That’s definitely a weak point.  I try to walk to local stores and bars whenever possible, but even that’s not too often.  Sigh.  Between work, commute, conjuration, sleep, and study, though, the time I have for working out is limited.  At least I’m living a healthy proper scholar’s life, though I might do well to pick up tai chi or yoga.

What magic might I be doing for my physical body?

  • I’m not against enchanting a bottle of my favorite cologne under the powers of Venus to look more attractive and desirable.  That’s already been stewing on my altar.
  • People at work have noticed and complimented the change in hairstyle, but nobody’s said anything about the piercings yet.  The silence kinda irks me, but it’s not unexpected, either; in an IT office in the government, when you’re the youngest person around, having piercings on a guy is pretty much unseen (especially the ones I have).  I might try my hand at actually making a glamour for myself, or at least having a shield of attraction and compliments set up to see if that changes people’s impressions of me.
  • I may as well ask my genius and the angels of Haniel and Kammael for help in finding suitable physical recreational activities like those mentioned above, even if it’s only for more excuses or causes to go out clubbing (dancing + subsequently hooking up).  I do miss dancing, but there are few enough clubs close to me and I dislike having to go to the city and leaving early to catch the train.  Whine whine whine.

Beyond that, my body.  (Warning, self-adoration approaching.)  I’m tall, broad-shouldered, thin (so I’m told), pleasantly hairy (so I claim), and I love it.  I like being one of the tallest people in the room, if only to chuckle; the frame I have helps intimidate, if not outright help me for strength on the rare occasions I need to use it; I’m an average weight (just slightly overweight according to the BMI, but screw that whore of a metric) and carry it well enough to turn heads; my body hair is uncommon (pretty much all gay guys are hairless, by choice or no, and it’s so depressing) and it helps sift out the guys I should sleep with from the ones I shouldn’t.  I’ve got thick dark hair that is apparently the envy of all women even though I find it more frustrating than not; I’ve got naturally long hands, perfect for crafting and typing; I’ve got big enough ears to host plenty of piercings (evidently); I’ve got large flat feet that love going outside bare across all terrain and temperature; and I can rock a beard, goatee, scruff, or nothing with equal suaveness.  Yes, my body has flaws; who’s doesn’t?  My body’s awesome.  Thank you, body, for being so awesome and looking so awesome.  Gotta love that Taurus rising, eh?  XOXO, etc.

Ye Olde Healing Artes For Mine Ears

So, late last week, while I was riding high on German darkwave and fire energy, I went and finally got my ears pierced.  It’s always been something I wanted, but I never had the money to pay for it, the balls to go through with it, or the gut to handle the potential pain.  Well, so much for that.  I got an industrial piercing in my right ear and a combination lobe and transverse lobe in the left all at once; not bad for a first time, and the lobe + transverse lobe isn’t something commonly seen.  The pain was surprisingly minimal, even for the industrial, which might’ve been described more as “crunchy”.

Of course, this begins the whole process of dealing with the pain, healing, and potential infections that could arise from having several new holes punched into my head.  Although the lobe will only need a month or two to heal, the transverse lobe and industrial may need upwards of six to twelve months.  That’s a nontrivial time to keep the wounds clean and free from infection, and although there are some ways to speed up the healing process, it’s largely a matter of my own body playing nice.  I’m taking extra zinc and vitamin C supplements in addition to my normal vitamins to help out the immune system and healing process, and using warm saline compresses twice a day to keep the wounds clean.  Still, isn’t there something else I can do?

I’m a magician.  I make shit work.  There is something else I can do.  Q.E.Duh.

I’m adopting a multifaceted approach to helping these wounds heal up ASAP.  Having gotten them done just before the start of Aquarius this year, I’d like them to finish up healing by around the start of Leo (approximately six months afterward).  That’s my big intent and stated goal for this, so let’s see what I might be doing.

  • Like I mentioned, I’m using warm saline compresses to clean the piercings.  Well, it turns out that the holy water I make is nothing more than saline, and I already use the appropriate kind of salt for the saline solution as I do for holy water (uniodized sea salt).  Plus, I make holy water using a variation on the instructions in the Clavicula Solomonis, which involves making it in the day and hour of Mercury.  Mercury’s angel is Raphael, who has traditionally been associated with the healing arts (cf. the Book of Tobit).  When I make my own batch of saline solution next time, I’ll conjure Raphael in a day and hour of Mercury and ask him to consecrate the salt, water, and resulting saline to aid in the speedy healing process of all wounds and to keep them free from infection and disease.  This will be specifically healing water that I’ll be making, to be kept separate from the holy water (I use different amounts of salt for each), and I’ll undergo further Mercurial consecration on the saline just for the added benefit.  Dunno how I’ll fit a gallon jug on my altar, but I’ll make it work.
  • In addition, these are specifically ear piercings I have.  Ears are for communication and observation, which are also Mercurial in nature.  Things that pertain to them would also tend to pertain to Mercury, although Saturn and Mars rule the ears specifically, the art of hearing and perception is more under Raphael’s jurisdiction.  I’ll ask Raphael, next I conjure him (both the Raphael of Mercury and the Raphael of Air) and ask him to keep the piercing jewelry themselves clean and free of infection.  In addition, I’ll ask him to straight-up bless them to aid in healing and perception and hearing, since I’m going to enchant them anyway once I can take them out safely (not for a while).  May as well get a head start on that.  Plus, I’ll ask him for any other advice he might have for healing or keeping them clean.
  • In a magical working group I’m involved with, I was suggested to begin basic energy work, a field of magic that I’m woefully inexperienced at.  I know that at least one of my friends has experience with healing using energy, and I’ve been told before that I’ve got a natural temperament and talent for healing.  I may as well pick up some skills with this and see where it gets me, and if it works, I get speedier healing as well as more mad skillz.  Practice with this can take up some of the extra time on my non-conjuration nights, so at least twice a week or more depending on how much I drink or go out with friends.

Those are a few ideas that I came up with, besides stuff like incorporating prayers into my daily practice.  In the meantime, I’ll check out my copy of the PGM, Munich Manual, and other occult texts I have for any rituals or workings to aid the healing process (though it might get me mixed results to adapt rituals intended for bite wounds from black dogs to being pierced).  What about you?  Do you know any healing techniques, spells, or rituals, or are there any specific deities or spirits you work with for healing?  If you’re willing to share, please do in the comments.  The world needs more healing, as much physical as spiritual.

Water may or may not agree with me

Also, it may be something else (I’m hoping it is, because I’d be damn confused otherwise), but it seems like whenever I do something really involved with water, BAM.  I get knocked down by illness.

Now, I’m not normally an infirm-constitution kinda guy.  I normally have very good health, with the exception of spring seasonal allergies (which have been hitting harder this year than not).  After conjuring Gabriel last week, I was knocked down for two days because of worse-than-ever allergies.  After meditating and contemplating water for so long last night, I’ve got bad flu-like symptoms and a 101 deg. fever.

Maybe it’s because I’m mostly a dry person (according to my natal chart, I’m split even on the hot/cold dichotomy and very high on the dry quality) and my primary element is earth.  Maybe it’s my Moon in Virgo and my Sun in the 6th House.  Maybe I shouldn’t be using the hyssop infusion as holy water for more than a week.  Whatever the hell this is, it’s incredibly obnoxious.