The Candle Blitzkrieg House Blessing

I try to keep my home a stable place of safety; after all, the home is the foundation of all that it is we do. It’s where we rest, recover, and rejoice, where we sleep, study, and settle, where we live, love, and laugh. The home is the most sacred place we have, our own personal temples where we are established in our sanctuaries. Without someplace to call our own, our little niche in the world, we really don’t have much. As part of my own spiritual maintenance, I try to keep my home in as good a condition as I try to make myself, complete with its own cleansings and blessings and purifications and wardings so that it can be a place of safety and sanctuary where I feel safe and sacred in.

In addition to keeping the house clean and cleansed and everything else, one of the more effective things I find myself doing is a particular type of blessing upon the house that doesn’t take a lot of labor but does give quite the return on its work. The central idea behind this is that, after the house is more-or-less emptied of unwanted influences and filth, you want to fill the house with greatly-desired influences and Light. For this, what better way than to literally give light to each room, and better, a consecrated light? Because this process uses a lot of candles throughout the house all at once (small ones, not the large novena candles), I call this the Candle Blitzkrieg technique, and I’ve put it to good use both in my home and in others’. After all, one of my favorite tools is fire, and lots of it. May as well turn it to a beneficial use once in a while, eh?

While I tend to use it for a general purpose for just bringing divine Light into the home, I’ve also used it for more specific needs, such as a whole-house prosperity or peace blessing. You’ll note that this ritual takes on a distinctly Abrahamic/Christian tone at times, because that’s just the general mode I work in for this type of work. For many of my conjure-based or Western magician friends, this is fine; however, this ritual format doesn’t need to be held to that religion; using similar prayers to open, consecrate, and bless, you can adapt it to any spiritual tradition you find appropriate to use. The ritual presented below is my general-use form, but adapt it to however you need to.

This ritual may be done at any time as needed, but avoid using it too often, both to avoid an overuse of candles and an overfilling of a home with too many influences all at once, say at most once a month. Especially good times would be during the dark of the Moon, winter solstice, or any other times when Light is needed in the home, as well as after any thorough cleansing or banishing that needs to be sealed up with good influences. Doing this before moving into a new house is also a good practice. I prefer to do this after sunset and before midnight so that the light of the candles really stands out, but any time of day will do. Planetary hours and days may be observed if the blessing is geared towards a specific goal, but this is not strictly necessary.

For this ritual, you will need:

  • One large white candle (a tall taper or glass-encased candle work perfectly)
  • A bunch of small candles, one for each room in the house (tealights are most preferred, especially in their metal tins). These candles must all be the same color; white is always a good option, but they may be colored appropriately for a specific end of your choosing.
  • Three small white candles
  • Two small white dishes
  • Holy oil
  • A blessing oil of your choosing
  • A long match or igniting stick
  • Optionally, a crucifix or other symbol of Divinity
  • Optionally, a wand

First, as I mentioned before, it’s best to have already cleaned and cleansed the home before doing this work. Sweep, mop, vacuum, dust, take out the trash, do the dishes, do the laundry, beat the rugs, wipe the windows, and so forth, whatever you need to do to get the house physically clean; banish, light cleansing incense, use spiritual floor washes, sweep with a consecrated broom, and so forth, whatever you need to get the house spiritual cleansed. The usual protocol is to do these cleansings in a direction from top-to-bottom, back-to-front of the house, all out the front door. Doing so will allow the rest of this work to go much smoother and take effect more strongly and quickly in the home. Similarly, be sure you’re clean and cleansed yourself before taking on this work.

On a large, clean working space, preferably in the kitchen or living room or other “center” of your house, arrange all your supplies. Anoint the large white candle with holy oil on one of the white dishes, and the other candles (less the three white ones) around it with the blessing oil of your choosing; this can also be the same holy oil as you used on the large candle and is best for general blessings, but it can also be something more directed for a specific purpose (money-drawing, peace, reconciliation, joy, love, etc.). Set the three extra white candles on the other white dish, and set it aside for the time being. If so desired, take your chosen symbol of Divinity and set it up on the table or behind it where it can be seen during this work.

Once all the candles (except those last three) are anointed, light the large candle, and consecrate it:

I conjure thee, thou creature of fire, by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing. Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire +, and sanctify it that it may be blessed +, and that it may burn for your honor and glory +, so neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into it, through the Most High and Holy Creator of All. Amen.

Recite a preliminary prayer that allows you to set your mind to the work. For this and other general works, I use the following, which is based off the Preliminary Invocation from the Arbatel (aphorism II.14) and with an invocation from the Heptameron:

O God, mighty and merciful!
O God, great, excellent, and honored throughout endless ages!
O God, powerful, strong, and without beginning!
O God, wise, illustrious, just, and divinely loving!
O God, Lord of Heaven and Earth, maker and creator of all that is visible and invisible; I, though unworthy, call upon you and invoke you, through your only begotten son our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that you give your Holy Spirit to me, which may direct me in your truth, for the good of all. Amen.

I ask you, most holy Father, that I should fulfill and perfectly realize my petition, my work, my labor today. Grant to me your grace, that I may use these great gifts of yours only with humility, fear, and tremblings, through our Lord Jesus Christ with your Holy Spirit, You who live and reign, world without end. Amen.

Pray:

Grant, o Lord, that as I light this candle in your honor and glory, that your divine Light may fill up this home as light fills up the dawn to cast away the darkness of night. Bless this home with your grace, bless this home with your protection, bless this home with your presence that all darkness, all defilement, and all death may flee this place and that only joy, life, and light remain. May the seal of your holiness descend upon this house, and may all those who abide within it rest easy under your guidance. Amen.

After this, recite the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be over the candle.

From the large candle, light all of the smaller candles for each of the rooms of the house. If the large candle is a taper, use that candle to light all of the others; if you can’t do that, use a long match or other wooden stick that can hold a flame to transfer the flame from the large candle to the smaller ones. , As you do this, say a quick blessing upon the smaller candle as you light it that quickly and succinctly captures the intent for the blessing. Examples of something like this might be, depending on your intent:

  • “May the light of God fill this home.”
  • “Fill this home with peace.”
  • “Grant prosperity upon this home.”
  • “Heal those who abide in this home.”
  • “Protect the body and soul of all those who live here.”
  • &c.

This next step is optional, but I prefer doing it. Once all these candles are lit, using your dominant hand’s index finger (or a wand, if you have it, or whatever’s left of the long match/igniting stick you may have used), energetically link the flame of the large candle to each of the smaller candles. The process I use is tapping into the flame of the large candle, forging an energetic channel to the flame of the smaller candle, then back to the large candle; I then do this process again, starting from the flame of the small candle to that of the large candle and back. Then, I push a bit of energy of the Divine (avoid using your own, even if you’re already in a state of cleanliness and purity, which you should be in anyway) through something like the Hymns of Silence or other quick one-word intoned “amen” into the large candle to fix the connection. Do this for each of the smaller candles that have been lit. Even though a strong connection was already formed between the large candle and the smaller candles by spreading the flame out, I prefer to reinforce that connection energetically as well; those who use crystal grids will be familiar with this or similar techniques.

At this point, pray over all the lit candles for your intent. This part is really up to you, so long as you pray from the heart about it. You can use any number of psalms, invocations, litanies, or other prayers for this purpose, so long as it supports what you’re trying to do. For instance, you might use Psalm 122 if you’re blessing the house for prosperity, or Psalm 29 to purify the home generally, and so forth. Take as long or as short as you need; use whatever resources you feel moved to use. Essentially, pray that as each of these candles shines their light into each room of the house, that God may shine Light throughout the entire home, that all those who abide, live, reside, visit, or are invited in may dwell in his Light, and that you may obtain the blessing of his grace for what you seek in the home.

Take all the candles one by one and set them in each room of the house. The most essential places are where you spend most of your time, but it really is best to put one in every room: bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, garage, basement, hallways, crawlspaces, attic, everywhere. The idea is that, no matter where you are in the home, you can see at least one candle burning; if you need to use more than one candle in a room to achieve this effect, do so. Any shelves, wall sconces, or hanging candleholders or candelabras can be put to good use for this purpose. Just take care that the candleflame doesn’t go out in the process of moving and establishing that candle from the large candle to wherever it needs to go, and be careful of where you put each candle that it doesn’t cause a fire hazard. If their spirits, saints, angels, or gods agree to it, set candles in already-existing shrines around the house where you may have them to further empower the work at hand (just check with them before you do so). Try to go from the inside outward from where you started, so that the Light “spreads” throughout the home.

Once the candles have been set throughout the entire house, return to the large candle. If, in the course of setting lights throughout the house, you noticed that there’s a particularly strong “heart center” of the house, take this large candle and your chosen symbol of Divinity (if you have/want one) and establish it there. Otherwise, leave the large candle and the symbol of Divinity where it was where it can burn out completely, such as on the kitchen table, empty counter, fireplace mantel, or living room coffee table. While the large candle is burning, throughout the house generally but especially in the light of this candle, avoid engaging in any arguments, heated words, violence, blasphemy, or other actions that run counter to the presence and blessing of God.

At this point, take the plate with the three white candles on it. For the final part of this ritual as an act of thanksgiving, leave these candles unanointed, but set them up in a triangle pointing upwards on the dish in front of or just beside the large candle already lit. Light the candles one by one, and recite Jonah 2:9 once for each candle:

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay that that I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.

(That part comes from Draja Mickaharic’s Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets, which is one of my favorite go-to sources of pretty dang effective magic. Short as it may be, it is a true treasure of that old-school Bible magic. I cannot recommend it enough. This particular working is simple and sweet, but is immensely powerful as an act of gratitude at the close of a working.)

Follow this up with any other silent prayers of thanksgiving, gratitude, respect, and honor to God. Once done, go about your business. Let all the smaller candles (including the thanksgiving ones) burn out on their own before collecting any tins or residue from around the house. The larger candle should be left to burn out on its own as well; if this is a multi-day candle, such as a novena candle, pray over it at sunrise and sunset for as long as it burns to continue the blessing of God into the home. Once this candle is burnt out, dispose of it as well. Enjoy your happily blessed home.

On Blessings

Lately, I’ve been thinking of things going on in my life, or that have happened in my life, and started to call the good ones (like, the really good ones) “blessings”.  It’s something that I’ve heard some of my older or elder friends say, too, about some of the nicer things in life, and…it’s weird.  Before initiation into Santeria, I would never really have used the word “blessing” to describe a good thing that happens.  Awesome, fantastic, or great, perhaps, but “blessing” was weird for me to think of it that way. Now, it seems a lot more natural; perhaps it’s just a shift in the crowd I run with and adopting the terminology, but seeing how I was already running with them before, something must have clicked into place for this sense of the word “blessing” to click for me.

Let’s recap, I suppose. From my Western religious or magical viewpoint that I’d assume is more-or-less common (but I could be wrong!), a blessing is a ritual act where something or someone is blessed.  For instance, a Catholic priest can bless a saint medallion (or any number of other things), and oftentimes perform a light or simple exorcism of a person which can also count as a blessing.  Other priests in other traditions and religions generally follow suit, with the overall goal to instill a force or presence of holiness or divinity in a material vessel, animate or not.  For many of the same reasons, many of the enchanting or consecrating acts magicians do can also be considered blessings; heck, the language we use is often identical to those used in the Church, if not taken directly from their liturgies and rituals, with much the same effect (though issues of apostolic succession and the lack thereof can subtly change or weaken the end result).

We can look at the word “blessing” in two etymological ways: the first, using the Germanic word family of bless, blood, and blót, and the second using the Latin word family of benedicere.  In the former, we have an original word coming from Germanic paganism of “marking with blood”, leading to the term blót, a sacrifice, and blót-hus, “house of worship” or “temple”.  By using the blood of sacrificed animals, the divine figures of worship, the place of worship, and the worshipers themselves would be instilled with the special powers contained within; there are conceptual parallels between this and the Old Testament use of sacrificed oxen and bulls in the Temple, as well as the literal bloodbath Moses gave to the Hebrews as he came down from the Mount.

In the second sense, we have the far more bland Latin term benedicere, literally meaning “to speak well” or “to say good things”.  However, in the Christian sense, consider that Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the Logos; to speak good things upon someone is to literally cast the power of God upon them for good ends and with good means.  This builds upon the more fundamental Abrahamic understanding of a blessing (all of which ultimately come from God) to the effect that to be blessed is to be favored and approved by God.  This ties into the otherwise unusual statement “Blessed are you, Lord our God” (how almost all Jewish blessings, or berakhot, begin); after all, how could God be blessed, if God gives all blessings?  It’s because being the source of blessings is indistinguishable from the quality of being blessed; both the blessing and the blessor are identical.

So much for etymologies and definitions.  When it comes to using the word, I’ve pretty much limited myself to using it in a ritual or prayerful context.  I would suppose that, as a technical matter, only priests (who have a valid and legitimate connection to their deity and who are licensed and authorized to do so by such a connection) can actually bless an object, person, event, or space.  Laity and other non-priestly clergy who lack that connection can pray for the blessing of something, while magicians can…well, I don’t want to say “consecrate” (literally “to make sacred”, which overlaps heavily with “blessing”), but perhaps “enchant” or (one of my more favorites, thanks Kalagni and Deb et al.) “enwoogify” or “bespooken”.  As a matter of technical correctness, only priests can bless; even if what magicians do is effectively the same thing in result, the mechanics and source of the result is sufficiently different to warrant another term.

But…well, consider what the laity do in this context: they pray for blessings upon someone else.  It’s what I never really put much consideration into before now, but when someone prays for your well-being, your happiness, your prosperity, your safety, your success…those are the blessings they pray for, which are their blessings to you.  Absent any other ritual, divine connection, or other woogity, that act is the lay equivalent of blessing someone, by appealing to the source of blessings to bestow its blessings.  That is their magic, their means of plying their connection, their gift to you.  Again, while them “blessing” you isn’t necessarily a proper use of the term, just as with a magician enchanting for some effect, the effect is ultimately equivalent.

That sort of realization is, in some sense (and in addition to being with people who use that term just as a thing), what led me to start widening my use of the term “blessing”, and why it finally made sense to call good things that happen “blessings”.  When we, as magicians, carry out a ritual for some end, do we not consider ourselves successful when that very thing comes to pass?  Of course we do; we might find ways to improve upon our results for future workings, but we consider the success a validation of our work, our connections to spirits, and ourselves.  Similarly, when we pray for something, do we not consider ourselves having been heard by God or the gods when what we pray for comes to pass?  Heck, we even say that they “answer our prayers”, just as they would a phone call or question.  Thus, if we pray for a blessing, and our prayers are answered, then we would then, logically, say that we have been blessed.

I’ve long held that magicians should pray just as much as anyone else, if not more so; in the types of magic I work, prayer is part and parcel of the whole shebang.  In my own prayers, besides those of adoration of divinity, I pray for guidance, enlightenment, fortitude, progress, compassion, companionship, wisdom, intelligence, understanding, protection, purpose, purity, and so much else.  For myself and for many other people, the most common things we pray for are good health, long life, prosperity, happiness, and peace.  There are hundreds of classifications and categories of blessings out there (just look up the endless kinds of berakhot that Jews are supposed to recite upon basically anything happening), but the big ones are things we all want in our lives, which are fundamental to a universal human notion of “a life well-lived”.

So, when something good happens that furthers me along in a way I’ve prayed for, or that someone else has prayed for me, or that just happen because *gestures vaguely upwards*  I should celebrate it and be grateful for it, just as I’d celebrate myself when something I’ve been magicking for comes to fruition.  Good things that happen (and I mean with a capital G, not just the little g good things) are blessings, whether or not I or anyone else has asked for them.  It’s such a simple concept, really; I’m kind of embarrassed that I never understood it before, but I get it now.  Maybe it’s preconceived notions that Good Things just happen coincidentally (which is otherwise a notion I’ve long since abandoned), or that Good Things happen so rarely (when so much that happens is actually Good, even if it’s not good on a microcosmic level), or something else that kept me from seeing…I dunno, a more profound awe in things.

Of course, recognizing that something is a blessing is only one part of the equation; being grateful for it and not taking it for granted are others to follow through with.  After all, when we get something we ask for from someone as a gift, we graciously and gratefully thank them, if not exchange a new gift for them; when we work with people or spirits whom we commission to do work for us, we pay them for their services.  To simply take without giving is selfish and greedy, and degrades the entity doing something for us into a slave, while taking without appreciation treats them as a machine.  For the Good Things that happen to us, we must be grateful that divinity either heard our prayers and saw fit to grant them, or that divinity for the sake of divinity favored us with the Good Things, but more than that, we must never take such blessings of Good Things for granted.  But then, how do you pay back a god?  In the ways that gods want, of course.  I would fain speak for divinities without them chiming in, but the general ways that I see acceptable across the board would be to make the most of the blessings given to you to further your own development, to help others with their own development, adoration of divinity for its own sake by means of your blessing, and to simply live a good/Good life for the sake of divinity, for the sake of the world, and for your own sake.

A blessing isn’t just a one-time good thing, like a slice of cake.  It’s more than a simple result of spiritual labor or material gift.  It’s a foundation, a building material to continue constructing and instructing our lives in the best ways we’re able to, and with which we can help others build theirs.  We just need the humility to ask for these materials, the knowledge of how to implement them, and the wisdom of when to use them, but even these we can inculcate in ourselves, both as practice we cultivate and blessing we seek.

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.

Problem, Predicament, Crisis

One of my favorite blogs to read is that of the Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, John Michael Greer (also known as JMG), who writes over at the Archdruid Report.  He writes about the slow end of technocratic, industrial civilization, peak oil, and so forth, and though his ideas can be tough to jive with, he’s deeply insightful and a powerful writer.  He’s also an accomplished occultist (and that’s putting it very mildly), and some of my own readers are familiar with his books on geomancy.  He’s a cool dude, basically, and I highly recommend you read his blog.  I can only look forward to a day when I get to meet him and chat with him in person over a few beers!

His blog has been on my mind a lot as of late.  As some of you guys are aware, I am gainfully employed as a federal employee of the United States government.  And, as I’m sure some of you have heard, the United States Congress is facing a bit of an issue at the moment with getting their heads out of their asses and passing a budget.  If there’s no budget (appropriations bill, continuing resolution, something that authorizes and directs how governmental activities are to be funded), then there’s no means to spend money for the government; if the government can’t spend money, I can’t get paid; if I can’t get paid, I’m legally prohibited to do my work, but I’m not fired, either.  This awkward position I’d be put in is called a furlough, and it happened two years ago in 2013 when Congress, in all their infinite asshattery, shut down the government for 16 days in October.  Should the government shut down again this year, and the chances of that are increasing by the day, I’d be again put into a furlough for as long as the brazen right-wing political insurgents in Congress decide to keep us out of work, which means I may not be getting a solid income for gods-only-know-when.  To say that I’m finding more of JMG’s ideas being realized in a very intimate way (I do like getting my paycheck, after all) certainly isn’t wrong, and it’s probably more than just right.

Is this a problem?  For Congress, absolutely.  For me, not at all.  How do I mean this?  I mean, sure, we could say that everything will likely be hunky-dory for me and I’ll be fine through the furlough, but I don’t necessarily mean this.  I like to use a profound and important distinction that JMG himself pointed out a ways back on his blog about problems, because not everything is a problem if it’s an issue.  There are two kinds of issues that we face as human beings: problems and predicaments.

  • Problems are issues that can be fixed, that have solutions, that can be worked out.  The word “problem” comes from Greek, meaning a task to be done or a question to be answered.
  • Predicaments are issues that cannot be fixed and cannot be escaped, but must be lived with and worked with.  The word “predicament” literally means “something that has been asserted or stated before”, something that is essentially fated, an essential fact or situation.

For instance, it is a problem that I do not currently have a glass of wine when I want one.  I can change this situation just fine, either by waiting until I get home and getting a glass of wine then, bringing a bottle of wine with me to the office, or going out to the bar on the way home or before I catch the train.  Problems can be fixed, one way or another.  Now, to use something of a graver example, take the issue of death.  Death is a predicament, not a problem.  After all, we cannot change or “fix” dying; we cannot prevent it, nor can we avoid it.  Death is a fact of life, a necessary part of the human condition that we must learn to live with and deal with as best as we are able.  A predicament must be lived with, not fixed.

If we want to use a metaphor, consider that you’re walking east along a particular road, and you encounter a river that crosses the road.  This is a problem, because you want to continue along the road and the river is blocking your progress.  You can still, eventually, go east; you can find a ferry or a bridge to cross the river, or you can change direction temporarily until you can find a safe crossing around the river without necessarily crossing over it.  This is a problem that you can fix; you can still head east, though you may need to take a somewhat different approach than you were doing.  Now, eventually, this road leads right to the shores of the ocean; the road ends, and you can no longer go east.  Can you build a bridge to cross the ocean?  Can you ferry yourself across it on a raft?  Can you just walk around it?  No, because the ocean is the end of the road.  You simply cannot go further east on the road because there is nothing across the ocean, nor is there any more road to walk.  You’re done.  That’s it.  This is a predicament; you’re done, and need to accept this and move on with your life in a way that doesn’t paralyze you, while accepting the facts of the issues at hand.

So, really, the matter in Congress poses a predicament for me.  The matter of the government closing and putting me into furlough is a predicament, not a problem.  It’s a fact I accept, gladly so (perhaps a little too gladly, as I’ve got parties to plan for in the case of a shutdown).  I’m not able at this point to just up and pick another job, nor would I be able to escape the effects of a shutdown in my industry considering the government’s widespread influence in my field of software development and engineering.  No matter how I cut it, the government shutdown will impact me.  Although this on its own is a predicament, it causes a whole slew of other problems for me.  The big thing for me to do, really, is to decide how to work with this predicament and how to work out these problems.

It’s at this point that I’d like to introduce a third word to that classification above: crisis.  Most people use this word to refer to some hectic, chaotic, or dangerous situation that one is unable to think through, but I prefer the old Greek sense of it being a turning point in a disease, a judgment, a selection, a separation.  Crisis is the notion of a juncture, a fork in the road, where things can radically change direction from really good into really bad or from really bad into really good.  Crisis is the moment when we realize whether we have a problem or a solution on our hands; it is the moment when we realize our course of action for an issue ahead of us.  Crisis is the judgment we make when presented with either a problem or a predicament, and it is crucially important that we judge our options well so that we can manage a situation as best we can lest we bungle it and blow ourselves up.

Problems and predicaments should be handled at the appropriate time, whenever that might be: whenever you get to them, whenever your face is shoved into it by fate, whenever they’re scheduled to be handled regardless of your own state of preparation, and so forth.  Crises, however, should probably be handled as early as possible so as to make everything that follows as smooth and painless as possible; as JMG is fond of saying with regards to the slow decline of industrial civilization, “collapse now and avoid the rush”.  In my case, even though the end of the fiscal year and the first opportunity for shutdown is still half a month off and much can happen in the meantime, I’m trying to get my affairs in order ASAP so as to make any possibility that happens as quick and painless for me as I can, and to make the prospect of recovery as orderly and straightforward as it can be when things get back to “normal” (whatever that word means nowadays).  This is still well in advance of my own agency’s notice, since we haven’t been formally directed or advised yet on what to do in the case of a shutdown, and even against the expectations of many people I work with and higher-up officials and politicians who steadfastly swear against the possibility of a shutdown.  Yes, I may be putting myself through undue work now by calling my creditors and landlord and putting everyone on alert, and if no shutdown happens, I’ll have to reverse my work and tell everyone to stand down.  Still, I’d rather give everyone involved advance warning in case the worst happens instead of rushing to tell them the day of an emergency.  It only makes sense.

So, take my example as a federal employee facing a federal furlough.  Part of my work is to identify the issues I’ll be facing and to decide whether they’re problems or predicaments.  After that, I’ll need to know who else is affected because of my problems or predicaments, and let them know how they might be impacted and come to an appropriate collaboration or compromise that helps us both deal appropriately.

  • Government shutdowns are serious matters that have huge financial and economic impacts on my local area as well as the country at large.  Since a huge number of people in my area are employed by the government, if none of us are getting paid, then shopping/dining out/consuming is going to tank, which impacts businesses across the region.  Plus, all federal “nonessential” services (everything except the bare minimum required to keep my area from turning into a Mad Max zone and to get business back to normal, like federal police and congressional staffers) will be furloughed, so there’s plenty of things that people won’t be able to achieve or obtain since the services that provide them will be unavailable. Everyone is going to hurt, so the earlier we’re prepared, the better.
  • Financially speaking, I won’t be able to go to work.  While this is kinda awesome, since I get more time at home and with friends, it also means I won’t be getting paid.  The money I have going into the shutdown is pretty much the money I’ll have throughout it, so I need to spend it wisely and when needed, since there’s no telling when the shutdown would end.  However, I am eligible for unemployment, which I’d just have to pay back if I get backpay for the time I missed at work.  Additionally, I have other means of making income: ebook sales, crafting and woodworking, divination and ritual consultations, ritual work, and odd jobs with the skills I have.  Plus, I can get support from my partner as well as my other friends if needed.  There are several people who owe me money, besides, and I plan on asking them to help out if they have the means to pay me back.  All told, I have several ways to keep myself financially afloat
  • Because I won’t be getting paid, I won’t be able to pay my bills.  This impacts my credit card company, my loan agencies, my service providers, and my landlord.  I’m in the process of contacting each of them and cancelling automatic payments, deferring payments as long as possible, cutting down on extraneous services I don’t need, making partial payments to be paid fully later on, and so forth.  Some things, like cell phone or internet bills, can’t be decreased much or deferred, so I’ll have to accept those bills and pay for them as I need to.  Other things, like car loans or rent, can be put off with the agreement of the other party until I’m back on financial ground.  Yet other things, like my credit card, can be significantly lessened so that the impact is minor.
  • Know what your other resources are, since money isn’t the only thing that makes the world go round.  There are other things, like food, that are just as important.  I recall from the last shutdown that plenty of businesses and restaurants and bars offered furloughed employees free meals or drinks and other types of non-financial aid to help the sting of furlough less harsh.  I’m going through some of the old tweets and news articles from 2013 to gauge where and what those places might be, just in case I need a pick-me-up somewhere.  Essentially, this is a form of thrift and reliance on social aid, which I’m not devastated to rely on should I need to.  Besides, places that help me out are places I’ll be sure to head back to, building stronger social bonds, anyway.  It’s a healthy cycle.
  • Ask for help, and be aware that it’s a matter of generosity and not something you’re owed.  Unemployment, calling in favors, collecting on debts, and getting hand-outs from awesome bars is one thing, but there’s no shame in asking others for a favor when you’re down on your luck.  For some people, one’s parents can and probably should be the first resort; understanding friends, especially those who are close or extraordinarily trustworthy, are another group of people you should call on.  I’m not suggesting one should outright go begging, but see who can help you out.  If you prefer, barter or trade one’s stockpile of supplies or skill sets to keep yourself busy as well as satisfied, so that everything is an even deal and nobody owes anyone at the end of the day.

That’s just a very brief overview of some of the things I’ve been thinking about and acting on when it comes to this crisis.  You can see how some of these things are just facts of life that have to be lived with, like service bills that can’t be interrupted (predicaments), and how other things have workarounds or solutions or contingencies inherent to the situation (problems).  Plus, by making the most out of the situation, unexpected or serendipitous opportunities can arise that make everything else better, at least a little bit.

Now, bear in mind that all this advice is good for pretty much anyone.  But, dear reader, you’re likely not just anyone.  You’re a fucking magician.  You have the power and knowledge and skill to change shit where others can’t.  It’s times like these (and those that are far worse than these) that people turn to magic, and for those who are already familiar with it, we’re far better off than those who are new or those who are fearful of it.  While mundane acts matter most in this mundane world of ours, magic buffs it up and changes the odds in our favor behind the scenes in a way that makes things work…well, like magic.  For us, a crisis is a time when we have many more things to decide on than just who to talk to, but Who to Talk to.

Again, using my situation as an example:

  • The first thing people lose in any kind of crisis is a cool head and a clear mind, and this often leads to a real disaster instead of a mitigated vexation.  If we don’t think about things properly and thoroughly, we can make a grievous misstep in our haste and confusion.  Banish, cleanse, meditate, bathe, and purify yourself in a way that gives you the spiritual fortitude and stillness to proceed.
  • Gods or spirits of communication and persuasion can be invaluable to call on, since they can make people and stakeholders (credit companies, loan agencies, landlords, banks, etc.) far more amenable to your situation and can help work on your behalf to get what you want done instead of having you be constrained more than you already are.  Honey jars, silver-tongue charms, spells of assertiveness, and the like can be applied for similar ends.
  • This is a financial issue, so financial magic is a must.  Making offerings and requests, as one is able, to spirits of wealth and fortune is one way to go about this; Jupiter and Mercury magic for increase and circulation is another obvious choice.  Money-drawing, however, works only as well as one has a means and a medium to draw money in, so similar things such as “help me get a new side-job” or “inspire me to come up with a new craft/writing topic that I can monetize” or even “small gains through the lotto” are things to consider and apply in equal measure.  Heck, you might even want to enchant the dollar bills and coins you use in consuming things to come back to you with more money.
  • As opposed to simply asking for more money and trying to conjure a good financial situation, it’s also worthy to consider stability and restraint magic on oneself to keep one from being too affected by what’s going on.  Rituals to intentionally take away what doesn’t need to be kept can be dangerous but helpful; increased awareness of one’s budget can help you stick to it better; tweaking the forces in your life with a touch of Saturn to keep expenses away is a good method to use.
  • Pray.  Prayer helps, not just to ask for stuff, but also on its own to keep your head above the murky waters of this world.  Joy, calmness, and satisfaction are things that can be easily delivered through prayer should it be done right, and can help refocus you on things of real importance so you can let the small things slide off easier.
  • Large-scale magical operations to affect the cause of the predicament should be planned in advance, ideally with other people in concert if possible.  While the spiritual forces surrounding Congress are…less than organized, and representative of the people inside Congress, inducing a change for the better should be considered and employed.  For instance, a work to encourage Congress to act justly and give furloughed employees (especially contractors, who are worse off than those directly employed by the federal government) backpay for the time missed, would be especially good.  Works to lessen the overall economic impact of the shutdown, to speed up the resolution of a budget, to kick out the political insurgents in Congress causing this mess, and so forth are all good things to pursue, but as Dr. Frankenfurter says, this will only remove the cause, not the symptoms.
  • Divination.  Holy shit, I cannot tell you how valuable divination can be in this instance.  As Jason Miller and Gordon White agree, however, divination is only one means to learn things, and should be corroborated with other sources of information to collectively form solid intel.  Keep an ear open for gossip, rumors, and legitimate news coming down the pipeline, and use information-gathering spirits to deliver to you whatever they can find out so you can plan ahead and get an edge on whatever happens or whoever is competing against you.  If you’re in a cutthroat environment, use the reverse of that on your enemies and competition: use spells of confusion, murkiness, buzzing, and gossip to disable them while you empower yourself to get ahead.
  • Mars and the Sun, as forces of Fire, are as crucial as maintaining a clear head.  If you make one misstep due to confusion, you can screw yourself over; if you lack the energy or bravery to take up an opportunity, you can miss it entirely and regret it later.  Do not be afraid of what will happen.  You’re going to need to be brave in a sticky situation, and you’re going to need drive and judgment and fortitude and urgency in order to make the most of your problems and predicaments.  Be bold.  Empower yourself accordingly, lest you get sapped, dragged under, and depressed by everything, letting the world act on you instead of acting upon it or with it in unison.

The possibilities I can take here are as endless as the number of stars in the sky, but this should give you a good idea of what can be done with magic in a crisis.  Essentially, this is the kind of approach Jason Miller talks about in his Strategic Sorcery stuff: be strategic, damnit, and back your mundane actions up with magic, and your magic with mundane actions.  Remember, kids: a crisis can turn for the bad, but it can also turn for the good.  It’s up to you how you react to it, and it’s also up to you how to act upon it.  Do your best, because that’s the only way you can get the best.

Now, if you’ve read closely, dear reader, you’ll notice something peculiar.  While most common self-help guides and 101-level entries on strategic magic might say that you need to take control of the situation you find yourself in, I’ve never said that, and have tried to avoid implying that, either.  The whole point of a problem versus a predicament is to point out that, quite often, there are things that are simply not in our control.  We cannot control the laws of physics or thermodynamics; we cannot break the rules of mathematical possibility; we cannot puppeteer multiple people in a complicated situation according to our own personal vision of things down to the minute.  We have our limits of power, and that quite often translates into the cosmos outright telling us “no”.  Trying to take control of the cosmos when the cosmos isn’t something to be controlled amounts to one thing and one thing only: failure.  It’s a fool’s errand to try and do that, and you’ll only make things worse if you do, with a broken sense of pride and capability being the least of your worries.  No, dear reader, trying to take control of the whole thing is not something that is for us.  It may not be easy for some of us to accept that the world is not our bitch, especially with our modern notions of progress and the infallibility of mankind, but it’s necessary to realize it all the same.

Rather than trying to take control of what you can, you manage what you should.  That’s where planning, organizing, and strategizing comes into play.  Rather than trying to constrain the cosmos to follow your whim like a slave, you work with the cosmos as a co-creator and contributor.  Anyone in an office environment is aware of the difference in management styles; a group can get far more done if people’s own inhibitions and limitations are taken into account rather than a leader saying “fuck it and fuck you, get it done”.  Limitations come in the form of predicaments, and obstacles arise in the form of problems; obstacles can be removed or worked around, but limitations must be obeyed and understood.  That’s part of our job in a crisis, too, and how we react to a crisis is as important as how we act upon it.  We need to temper our will and expectations with a hefty dose of realism so we know what is feasible for us to attain given the circumstances.  Once we can see that, or at least approximate it to a good working model, then we can really get to work (and Work).