magic

Excerpt from Celtic Witchcraft by Mabh Savage: The Color Red

August, 2017

 

The colour red appears throughout Celtic mythology and is normally associated with magic in some way. This may be the prophecy of war and bloodshed. Rowan, the tree with the startling red berries, is strongly associated with powerful magic. The Morrígan herself is normally portrayed as having red hair, especially in her guise as a sorceress or poet. Red is the magic of spells, curses, geas and prediction. Red is proactive magic; visible magic; magic that wants to be seen, admired or feared.

 

Think about red in our daily lives. Red means stop; warning; danger; love; passion; blood; fire; forbidden; command; hang up; hot; hazard and generally ‘pay attention right now’. It is the colour of compulsion. We are almost programmed to pay attention when we see red. The term itself, ‘seeing red’, denotes a state of rage that implies we are no longer fully in control of ourselves. In nature, flowers are red to attract pollinators, and insects are often red (or red and black) to warn of venom, or to con predators into thinking the potential prey is dangerous. Birds may flash red feathers to attract a mate and among our own ‘plumage’, red is considered a sexy colour; racy, dangerous and daring.

 

Fire

 

 

Red is used as the colour of the direction of south, and the element of fire. Often a red candle is placed at the southern part of an altar, or the southernmost part of a room where magical work is practiced. It may, however, not be practical for you to use fire or indeed to have candles in places where small hands or paws can reach them. So instead, you may want to use a red ribbon, symbolising the way passion binds us. A red pen can symbolise the fire of creativity. A simple blob of red paint on a stone or shell may bring a Spartan and natural beauty to your sacred space. You can use red flowers from the season; poppies in spring, roses in summer and perhaps chrysanthemums or rudbeckia in autumn and perhaps amaryllis or similar in winter.

 

Other natural additions to a sacred space can be hawthorn berries, rowan berries or holly berries depending again on the season. The juice from elder berries can be used to stain things red, and can even be used as a sort of ink.

 

Passion

 

Our passions are not just the obvious trio of love, desire and lust. We all have passions that stretch into other aspects of our lives; our ambitions, our motivation and our goals. Using red in magic helps us reach out from a place of wanting to a place of having or being. Red is also the connection between the human, physical state and the ethereal, magical state. When you are performing magic, you can imagine red blood flowing through an umbilical cord that attaches you to the universe, combining your own energy with that that resides within everything.

 

If you feel like you have taken on too many tasks, and can’t find a way to prioritise, this exercise is useful. Find a quiet and calming space. Make it feel comfortable; light incense, play music or open a window. Whatever makes you feel more you is very important here. Draw a red spiral on a white piece of paper. Start at the edge of the paper and working inwards from the top left corner, draw the curve clockwise and spiral gently in to the centre. There is no rush. Let the thoughts of the tasks you have piled upon yourself wash through your mind, without focusing on one in particular. While these thoughts flow, keep your eyes following the spiralling line you are drawing. When your spiral reaches a central point, focus on the whole image, then close your eyes and breathe deeply. You should find that you are able to prioritise much more easily, and also that the feelings of stress and pressure have alleviated. You are refilled with a passion to achieve your goals, instead of the fear that you won’t.

 

Blood

 

 

The colour red sneaks into magical and healing practice all over the world. Red is the colour of blood and therefore is intrinsically linked to life, and of course all that goes with that: passions, emotions, health, sickness and even death.

 

This is a technique I learned through my study of the ancient Mexican practice of Curanderismo. When you are feeling particularly stressed out, carry a piece of red ribbon or cord in your pocket. Whenever a problem crops up, tie a knot in the ribbon, concentrating on the issue that gripes at you. At the end of the day, take the ribbon out of your pocket. Look at all the knots. These are your problems. There may be few; there may be many. Go out into the garden, or if you don’t have a garden, use a pot on your windowsill. Bury the ribbon and imagine letting go of all your problems. You are returning the physical representation of your troubles to the earth. Letting go physically helps you to let go mentally.

 

If you enjoyed this, Mabh’s book is available at Amazon and all good book stores.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of:

 

 A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors

 

 

and

 

Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

 

 

Follow Mabh on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

The Magic of Chocolate

August, 2017

That chocolate is a magical drug is something that every woman knows. It can nurse you through any kind of heartbreak, it can make you fall in love (provided someone buys you enough of it) and it helps you cope with the everyday stress of a million things. No wonder then that chocolate gifts are something that work for any occasion. But is it just a delicious treat that makes you feel good or is there some serious magic at work here?

 

 

The ancient Mayans who are credited with first discovering and cultivating cacao beans, the source of chocolate certainly thought so. Archaeological evidence shows that chocolate in liquid form was used in a number of different ceremonies. It was important for baptisms and marriage ceremonies. It was served as an offering to the Gods and also to the deceased. At certain times in history its use was restricted only to those who ranked high in their societies – priests, officials and royalty. The Aztec’s regarded chocolate as an aphrodisiac and their Emperor, Montezuma reputedly drank it fifty times a day.

 

What is interesting is that research in medicine is now backing up the theory that chocolate actually makes you feel good. When you bite into a bar of your favourite chocolate there is a cocktail of compounds that affects your brain. Here are a few of them and their effects:

 

  • Tryptophan and serotonin: They create feelings of relaxation and well-being.
  • Caffeine: This psychoactive substance creates temporary alertness.
  • Xanthines: This mild stimulant occurs naturally in the brain and, like caffeine, increases wakefulness.
  • Theobromine: This stimulant and vasodilator increases blood flow.
  • Phenylethylamine: This compound stimulates the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and motivation.
  • Anandamide: This neurotransmitter activates pleasure receptors in the brain.
  • Flavonols: These compounds boost blood flow to key areas of the brain for two to three hours after being metabolized, creating effects similar to those of a mild analgesic (painkiller) like aspirin.

 

But despite all the research there is something spiritual in the way we connect with chocolate which simply cannot be explained by a chemical reaction. Which is something that would explain the increasing popularity of the Cacao Ritual or The Cacao ceremony.

 

The Cacao ceremony which uses raw, unsweetened, unadulterated, form of the cacao beans is an intense chocolate experience which has the potential to open your heart and assist in deep emotional release. Participants in a ceremony partake of a specially concocted cacao elixir which uses spices and other ingredients. At a typical ceremony they are then guided into a meditative state and the facilitators may use various drum/rattle techniques to deepen the journey. Healing spirit songs and mantras are also used to guide the energy of the ceremony.

 

If you are interested in exploring this further you can search online for the next cacao ceremony happening near you. For those who want to experience the chocolate high right now you can go out and grab some delicious chocolate. Or better still share the magic and the love by gifting someone some chocolate!
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About the Author

Saurabh Mittal, Founder ChocoCraft, is an entrepreneur by trade and an adventurer by heart. He is fascinated by all things chocolate and loves sharing interesting ideas and information on the subject. When not making chocolate gifts he loves to hike in the mountains.

ChocoCraft is a firm that specialized in made to order chocolate gifts for all occasions – Weddings, Corporate Gifts, Birth Announcements, Birthdays and Anniversaries. They create beautiful printed chocolates with photos, text or any design printed on them with edible ink.

BROOMSTICKS!

August, 2017

(Apprentice of the Wind.  Original Piece by Imelda Almqvist)

Here is last night’s conversation in the Almqvist family (I wrote it down verbatim as it unfolded)

Youngest Son: “Mum, I know you fly around on your broomstick but I can’t see it anywhere!”

 

Me: “I have made my broomstick invisible – so no one borrows it without asking first. For instance Middle Son when he runs with elks in the Forest at midnight…

 

My husband: “I want a GPS on my broomstick so don’t end up having a full frontal collision with somebody else flying around in complete darkness…”

 

Middle Son: “I just want a normal broom for cleaning with no magical purposes…”

 

Eldest Son: “I want one that works!”

 

Youngest son: “And I want one with a special seat for a jaguar, my familiar!”

 

 

Middle Son: “And I want a secret locker on my broomstick for a special supply of crisps and treats!”

 

Maybe I should explain that Middle Son (15) really does go running in the Forest (here in remote rural Sweden) at midnight, often accompanied (or closely observed) by an elk or a herd of deer. After “women we run with wolves” it seems the next big thing is “teenagers who run with elks” – and never in the daytime. (His power animal is a wolf. I hope that those deer are safe!)

 

 

 

To me this is what it means to raise a family who keeps the innate gift for magic alive. Practising magic requires imagination and a good sense of humour!

 

Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, July 2017

 

***

 

About the author

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in August 2016.  

 

 

She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit 2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True.

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

http://shamanismsummit.com/

 

 

Exploring the Penumbra: First Steps in Sorcery, Part 3

August, 2017

Filling the Boat with Water

The traveler in the penumbra must manage to integrate these strange practices into a reasonably normal life, or he may give the appearance of schizophrenia and wind up in an asylum, like the protagonist of the French film ‘La Vie a l’Envers [Life Upside Down]’. 1 It is probably not possible to avoid a certain appearance of eccentricity, but with circumspection one can avert raising a general alarm.

While sitting in an airport and maintaining peripheral vision I found it was enough to wear dark glasses and hold a magazine in front of my face, turning the pages occasionally, to avoid appearing odd. I called these tricks of protective coloration ‘alibis’.

I saw that every situation affords some opportunity for extending the attention beyond the lumina. In a restaurant it may be revolving shadows cast by a ceiling fan, a convenient thing to gaze at while waiting for one’s order to arrive, while of course maintaining an air of day-dreaming. This ever-present opportunity I called a ‘bindu,’ a Sanskrit word meaning a point from which new creation can emerge. So in every new situation I looked for the bindu and had an alibi ready for camouflage purposes.

This helped me to integrate sorcery into any given moment, but the question of integrating it into my life as a whole remained. I still built up my energy for two or three days and then wasted it through anger, worry, or mild obsession. I enjoyed the fluid lightness of continuous sensation, but could only save up just so much energy, since my thinking mind found so many ways to squander most of it. Accessing the energy, then, wasn’t enough; I had to find a way to save it and store it up if I wanted to make progress.

An eastern teaching says we are like leaky vessels; we should find the leaks and plug them before filling the vessel with water. This means correcting bad habits and purifying oneself ethically before opening the door to psychic development.

Exploring the penumbra, however, is like filling an old boat with water to find the leaks. The explorer saturates mind and body with the energy of the penumbra and then quietly observes what his personality does with the increased energy. The eastern

teaching is prudent, and the explorer should bear in mind that filling the boat with water can be risky at first until you know where your big leaks are. Although adventures can be therapeutic they also contain dangers. To protect themselves, seasoned travelers travel lightly, simplifying their lives by eliminating useless possessions, opinions, commitments, relationships, clutter of all sorts. Greater openness to sensations makes the explorer seek silence and solitude, and cutting down on distractions makes it easier to spot energy leaks and plug them.

After the leaks are plugged and the hull is caulked, the old boat can be launched into the sea of the unknown.

Bindus

Upon awakening, not putting on the light right away, but lying quietly, slipping gradually from sleep to waking. Watching the lights on the inside of the eyelids. Slowly beginning the camera, fluttering the eyelids open every third breath or so. After this getting up and moving around, keeping the attention in the penumbra for a few more moments.

Driving to work around dawn, watching the long shadows of trees fall across the face like weightless waves, shadow-surf. The eyes seem to feel things.

Noon, cars gliding by on their shadows like carpets fixed to the wheels, yet the wheels roll over them just the same, a visible contradiction.

Swimming slowly across the pool, watching unrepeatable detail, lights wriggling like phosphorescent worms along the bottom, how light this body, how long the breath can be held!

Restaurants are excellent for peripheral listening, even better in the evening, by a window or in a glassed-in patio, mixing reflections with listening. Ocean of conversations all together, surging and falling to a great tide.

Lights at night, exquisite when the mind is quiet. Reflections of the interior mingled with views of the night outside. This mind wants to see either the reflections or the night, so watch them both. Headlights of cars beyond the inlet moving across the forehead of that woman eating at the next table wearing a streetlamp behind her left ear.

In the evening listening to distant sounds, letting my ears travel to the limits of the night, echoing fugitive noises until the dark flows back into my mind and the night is inside and all around me.

Late at night, off with the reading lamp, shutting the eyes, falling-asleep thoughts mingling with phosphenes. Those vague lights and patterns will be woven into dream images. My day begins and ends with this book that only I can read.

Blendings

“I’ve always got some tune or other going through my head,” my father said.

Minor obsessions like tunes that stick in the head waste a lot of energy but can be dispelled by blending them with sounds heard in the moment. Begin by echoing sounds a moment after they occur. Let the pace quicken on its own, until you are echoing sounds immediately upon hearing them. Now listen to the tune and the echo together as though they were a duet, like one of John Cage’s chance compositions.

The mind will find a rhythm common to them and they will sound as though they were keeping together within it. Presently, the inner tune will be absorbed into the outer sound, and only the outer will remain.

Mental tunes and inner talking can also be absorbed into visual movement. Watch how things move, observe their rhythm and let the mind blend with it.

When I am sleepless or otherwise caught up with obsessive thoughts, I can blend them with the rhythm or sound of my breathing, the way sitar music blends with the droning tamboura in the background.

If I try to suppress thoughts, they will only grow stronger; so instead I blend them like tunes into external sounds, letting them reverberate and die away on their own. The solution to these small dilemmas can be found in this moment of sensation.

Sometimes, when I am upset about something I can’t do anything about for the present, I begin obsessively repeating what I am going to say when the time comes. Pointless rehearsing, as opposed to intelligent planning, is a major energy leak in the hull of my boat.

At other times, dissatisfied with my response or role in a situation recently past, I will begin rehashing the situation over again, seeking to look better in my own eyes; or else I will hug to myself some quick response I made that drew laughter or applause. Either way, I waste a lot of energy in my obsessive concern over how I appear to others.

Like all trains of thought, the rehash and the rehearsal can be blended into sounds just heard, or into visual sensations. The echo, in conjunction with other explorations, lets me build up enough energy to sidestep the rehearsal and rehash before they capture my attention.

The wake of the moment just past often contains a ready-made synopsis of my life’s ongoing story. Maintaining a running story-line for my life and worrying over the plot is a full-time job and engages most of my energy.

If I blend the synopsis with sounds of the present moment my story starts

to fade, and is eventually replaced with a series of timeless pictures, like the calm

colored illustrations by Clement Hurd to Margaret Wise Brown’s children’s book

Goodnight Moon. 2

These pictures convey the feeling of immediacy enjoyed by very small children. Here is a small rabbit saying good-night to all his familiar companions: chairs, a red balloon, the moon in the window. This ‘great green room’ must be his first room, where everything began for him; only this is near the beginning and his story hasn’t really started yet. Instead there is a series of timeless moments, each complete in itself. Everything fits together and makes sense the way pictures make sense, but the moments following each other do not add up to a story because there is no plot and no synopsis.

Mirages

When my second son was little, we used to take evening walks. On the way home one night suddenly we both looked at the moon. “It’s following us home,” I said, with that slight twinge of guilt parents feel when they’re lying about Santa Claus. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t noticed this for years, probably since being told it was an illusion.

Here was an experience usually ignored, like the shadow carpets of moving cars or the fuzzy sensations that are all I can see of my head without a mirror. These sensations, rejected once we ‘knew better,’ are doors into the penumbra. I decided to call them ‘mirages,’ because like desert mirages they tend to melt away when we suddenly see through them.

The mind’s proclivity for placing unrelated sounds in some sort of rhythmic pattern, so that all the conversations in a restaurant, for instance, seem to swell and fall in a great tidal pulse, was mentioned earlier. In the preceding section its usefulness for stopping mild obsessions by ‘blending’ them into external sounds was described. These explorations make use of the energy locked up in mirages.

When out walking on a windy day, attend to the wind in rhythm with your breathing. Don’t try to control your breathing, but follow the sound and feeling of breathing while listening to the wind as though it were the breathing of some enormous animal. Breathe with the wind, then breathe in response to the wind.

When clouds are packed up in more than one layer, look at one cloud and reverse it with the cloud in back or in front of it, switching figure and ground. This one is from my brother, a field surveyor. [W.W.]

The ancient Norse seeking their farmstead idols collected stumps and rocks and such that seemed to have faces carved in them by nature. 3 These were regarded as beings trying to emerge from stock or stone, and were carved and decorated just enough to help them come out. Like the Surrealist painter Salvador Dali, they looked for hidden faces in things.

We look at faces differently from mere objects, because faces look back. The explorer finds faces in wood grain, clouds or foliage and looks, then gazes at them as if they were faces looking back, without believing or disbelieving that they are. This is a good follow-up to the camera or echo, and augments or fine-tunes their effect.

Watching phosphenes leads to a feeling of being asleep while knowing one is awake. The next two mirages also play with the border between sleeping and waking and result in strong surges of energy accompanied by strange feelings.

When it is difficult to dispel the feeling of a dream, or if you simply recall the flavor of some dream, whether recent or from long ago, project its feeling into the current waking situation; that is, look for qualities or features similar to the dream and blend them with your memory of its mood or atmosphere. Pretend the dream is happening right now and you are temporarily aware that you are dreaming.

When you have actually had a lucid dream and can remember how it felt, project that feeling into the present waking moment and look at everything as though you were back in that dream. As lucid dreamers know, anything in a dream is a potential distraction that can make the dreamer lose his lucidity, so you want to look at things warily, without being drawn into them. Once you are drawn in you will forget you are dreaming and it will become an ordinary dream again. If you do this while awake, you will receive a strong jolt of energy.

We have a major energy investment tied up in the isolation of dreams from waking reality, which makes it very difficult for most people to become lucid dreamers. I will conclude by considering this barrier to lucid dreaming, and how it might be overcome through a mirage.

Lucid Dreaming and Lucid Waking

Cultures that accord a measure of reality, and therefore of importance, to dreams offer the advantage of providing a contrast to waking moments. Consequently, the members of those cultures are more aware of the fact that they are awake in their waking moments, just as they tend more often to be aware that they are dreaming in their dreaming moments.

Cultures like ours that tacitly dismiss the reality, and therefore the importance,

of dreams offer no contrast to waking moments. Consequently, the members of cultures like ours tend to forget they are awake or dreaming when either is the case, getting caught up instead in the plot of a running story-line, whether of the dream or of their waking lives.

When dreams become lucid, the dreamer realizes “Now I am dreaming. This is a dream.” The dreamer can stand back from the dream-story and change the dream’s course. Our language has no term for the waking state corresponding to the word ‘dream’, and a ‘wake’ means an all-night vigil by a corpse; so I will use the word ‘waking’ to mean a sequence of experiences between waking up and falling asleep again. Now we can say that when wakings become lucid, the waker realizes “Now I am awake. This is a waking.” The waker can then stand back from the waking-story and change the waking’s course in ways that are impossible for the non-lucid waker. Instead of tinkering with the plot of our running story-line, we want to step out of it altogether, because ‘the more it changes, the more it remains the same’.

To step outside the plot of my waking-story, I must be truly aware that I am awake when I am awake; just as to step outside the plot of my dream-story, I must be truly aware that I am dreaming when I dream. Neither state is possible without the other. To wake lucidly, I must begin to see all this that is happening now as a waking, not simply take it tacitly as reality. And to do this, I must restore the dream to its own reality, its own importance in my life. Whether dreaming or waking, I must take nothing for granted and accept every experience as important and relevant to my life as a whole.

Bibliography

and films referenced in the text. I list the editions I use, including works I own by authors cited in the text or footnotes.

BROWN, Margaret Wise, Goodnight Moon, pictures by Clement Hurd. Harper and Row,

1947.

CASTANEDA, Carlos, The Teachings of Don Juan; a Yaqui Way of Knowledge. New York, Ballantine , fifteenth printing, 1973.

________________, A Separate Reality; Further Conversations with Don Juan. New York, Simon and Schuster, second printing, 1971.

________________, Journey to Ixtlan; the Lessons of Don Juan. New York, Simon and Schuster, first paperback edition, 1973.

COLLINGWOOD, R. G., The New Leviathan, on Man, Society, Civilization and Barbarism. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1958.

DAVIDSON, H. R. Ellis, Pagan Scandinavia. New York: F.A. Praeger, 1967.

HARDING, D. E., On Having No Head; Zen and the Re-discovery of the Obvious. London and New York, Arkana, 1986.

JESSUA, Alain, “Life Upside Down [La Vie a l’Envers].” Film, French, Connoisseur Videos, 1965. Written and directed by Alain Jessua.

WITTGENSTEIN, Ludwig, Tractatus logico-philosophicus. London, New York: Routledge, 1990.

Glossary

Alibi: An activity or prop designed to camouflage exploring the penumbra in a public or social situation.

Bindu: An opportunity, or the best opportunity available, for placing the attention in the penumbra in the present moment; every moment contains at least one bindu.

Blending: Paying attention to two sensations at a time, noting especially similarities in rhythm between them, whether audible or visible rhythm. Where one of the sensations is mental and the other external, the purpose of blending is to let the latter absorb the former.

Camera: Shutting the eyes and, at intervals, opening and shutting them again fairly rapidly.

Echo: Mentally reproducing sounds just heard, or visual rhythms just seen.

Flickerings or Pre-thoughts: Impulses to thought that enter awareness at the visual periphery and are experienced there as perturbations of attention.

Gazing: Spreading the attention to the side, or above or below, of wherever the eyes are pointing.

Gazing from the side: Directing the eyes to the side, or above or below, an object while spreading the attention to the object itself.

Gazing to the side: Directing the eyes at an object while spreading the attention to the side, or above or below, that object.

Headless gazing: Keeping the attention on what little we can see of our heads without using a reflecting surface.

Looking: Directing the attention to wherever the eyes are pointing.

Lucid dream: A dream in which the dreamer realizes he or she is dreaming; often experienced in the course of waking up.

Lucid waking: A waking experience in which one has a heightened sense of being awake in the present moment, accompanied by a sense of separation from one’s personal story or ‘synopsis’ (q.v.).

Lumina: That mental space used for both thinking and looking.

Mirages: Sensory illusions that provide energy so long as we experience them without ‘seeing through’ them. i.e., while suspending disbelief.

Not-Doing: Performing an everyday act in an unusual way; doing what you don’t usually do, and/or not doing what you usually do. A full act of not-doing will involve both simultaneously. A term coined (or transmitted) by Carlos Castaneda in his books, beginning with Journey to Ixtlan.

Penumbra: That mental space used for gazing at things seen to the side, or above or below, of wherever the eyes are pointing; that mental space used for listening to background sounds or attending to other background sensations or memories.

Peripheral sensations: Any sensations, including memories, that are available to attention but generally ignored.

Periphery: The limits of the visual field, only indirectly perceivable; analogously, the limits of the other senses.

Phosphenes: The visual impressions we get when pressure from the eyelids (or some other source) is applied to the retina.

Pre-thoughts: See Flickerings or Pre-thoughts.

Rehash: A mental review of a previous conversation or situation.

Rehearsal: An anticipation of a future conversation or situation.

Spirit candle: Crossing the eyes while looking at two candles of the same size and shape but different colors, making a third apparent candle between them; the apparent candle itself.

Spirit door: Crossing the eyes while looking at a candle, making two apparent candles with a space between them; the space between the candles.

Spirit wind: A mental and physical experience similar to flying, resulting from prolonged practice of the echo with some other exploration, such as watching eyeglass frames.

Synopsis: A running story-line of one’s life, the thing we refer to when answering the question “How are you doing?”.

Thinking: Talking to oneself mentally.

Tracking: Letting the attention follow the eyes as they move deliberately from one object to another.

Umbra: That mental space which registers the existence of objects beyond the current limits of sensation, such as objects in back of the head; or of objects which turn with the head and so remain out of view yet somehow make their presence felt.

Waking: Waking experience, regarded as a mental event different from, but on a par with, dreaming.

Wall vision: Opening the eyes minimally, as Zen Buddhists do while meditating in front

of a wall.

Wordless knowledge: New awareness of something that previously has gone unnoticed, and for which we therefore lack a name.

Index of Explorations

In some cases these explorations are given a name in the text, in others I provide a short description. The numbers following the entry refer to page and paragraph.

Blending all conversations in a restaurant together, 21.5

breath with the wind, 24.4

distant night sounds together, 21.7

effects of an exploration with silence afterwards, 8.2

falling-asleep thoughts with phosphenes, 21.8

mental tunes with sounds, 22.2

mental tunes with visual sensations, 22.3

peripheral listening with gazing at reflections, 21.5

phosphenes with dream images, 21.8

phosphenes with sounds, 16.7

reflections in a window with things seen through the window, 21.6

thoughts with background sensations, 8.2, 8.5

thoughts with breathing, 22.4

thoughts with sounds or visual sensations, 22.3, 22.5, 22.8, 23.1

rehash with sounds or visual sensations, 22.8

rehearsal with sounds or visual sensations, 22.8

synopsis with sounds or visual sensations, 23.1

Blinking, long, 14.7

Camera, 14.1 – 14.6

before a changing scene, 14.2

swing, 14.6

varying number of breaths, 14.5

varying shutter speed, 14.5

while walking, 14.3

with crossing the eyes unfocused, 17.2

with looking at phosphenes, 16.4

Crossing the eyes, focused, 17.3 – 17.7

with one candle, 17.3 – 17.6. The spirit door.

with two candles, 17.7 The spirit candle.

with three or more candles and mirrors, 18.1

Crossing the eyes, unfocused, 17.1

preliminary relaxation, 17.1

with the camera, 17.2

Echo, 12.1 – 12.3, 12.7

as companion or feedback signal, 12.7

delayed, 12.2, 22.1

flying on the, 12.3 – 12.7, 13.1. The spirit wind.

immediate, 12.2, 22.1

in a group circle, 13.2

prevents compulsive thinking, 22.8

used in a blending, 22.1

with gazing at eyeglass frames, 12.3

Eyelids, widening and narrowing the, 15.1

Gazing at eyeglass frames, 9.4

at foliage, 6.5

at hidden faces, 25.3, 25.4

at reflections, 6.5

at revolving ceiling fan reflections, 19.3

at shadows, 6.5

at shadow carpets of cars, 6.5, 21.3, 24.2

at shadow surf, 21.2

at the periphery, 9.2, 9.3

at unrepeatable detail, 21.4

from the side, 6.4, 17.6

general, 6.5

headless, 10.1, 10.2

to the side, 6.2 – 6.4, 17.6

with peripheral listening, 6.5, 9.4

with the echo, 12.3

Looking at phosphenes. See Phosphenes, looking at.

Looking, peripheral, 5.3, 5.4

Mirages:

gazing at hidden faces, 24.6, 24.7

headlessness, 24.2

moon as companion, 24.1

projecting the feeling of a dream, 25.2

projecting the feeling of a lucid dream, 25.3

shadow carpets of cars, 24.2

switching figure and ground with cloud layers, 24.5

wakings, 26.3, 26.4

wind as breath, 24.4

Peripheral feeling, 5.3

gazing, 5.4

listening, 5.2, 5.4

listening and gazing, 6.5, 9.4

looking, 5.3, 5.4

memory, 5.5, 11.2 – 11.4

Phosphenes, following the changes in, 16.3

looking at, 16.2 – 16.7, 25.1

switching figure and ground, 16.3

tracking from side to side, 16.5

with the camera, 16.4

with the echo, 16.7

Savoring the moment just past, 8.2

See Blending: effects of an exploration with silence afterwards

thoughts with background sensations

Sensing everything at once, 5.2, 7.1, 9.2, 9.5, 14.6, 17.1

Spirit wind, the, 12.3 – 12.7, 13.1 See Echo, flying on the

Tracking, by tensing eye muscles, 14.5

phosphenes, 16.5

test for, 9.5

using a mirror, 9.5

Wall vision, 16.6

1 Jessua, Alain, writer and director. See bibliography.

2 Brown, Margaret Wise. See bibliography.

3 Davidson, H.R. Ellis, Pagan Scandinavia. See bibliography.

Notes from the Apothecary

August, 2017

Notes from the Apothecary: Self Heal

 

 

Prunella vulgaris; prunel, brunell, carpenter’s herb, hook heal, sickle-wort; a common herb in the British isles, and indeed most places in the Northern Hemisphere; currently creeping its way across my lawn, unapologetically purple. I was delighted to find this magical little plant as a ‘freebie’; we didn’t cultivate it, it’s completely made its own way in and it is most welcome. The plant has a long history of medical use, being commented upon by Gerard, Culpeper and many other renowned herbalists and botanists, for its wide-ranging uses, which we will examine further below.

 

Although useful as a magical plant, we don’t find it in Cunningham or similar books, yet there is much history surrounding this little miracle plant.

 

The Kitchen Garden

 

Eat the Weeds tells us that the young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, however the raw leaves can be slightly bitter. This may be an option if you are really low on greens, but I would only cultivate this plant to be harvested as an herb, or simply to be enjoyed as an extremely beautiful addition to any garden.

 

Purple flowers in the garden help attract bees and butterflies, and bees in particular really love this plant (see the pic I took at the top of the article; I had bent down to shoot the flower when the bee buzzed in, a couple of inches from my nose!). If you grow your own herbs, fruits and vegetable, it’s essential that you encourage pollinators, so self heal is ideal for this.

 

The Apothecary

 

Where to start. The common name, self heal, tells you all you need to know and not very much at the same time. We get that sense that for centuries, this plant has been revered for its healing properties, but what exactly does it do?

 

Mrs Grieve tells us that the whole plant may be used medicinally, as an astringent (causes cells to contract), a styptic (stops bleeding) and a tonic (a general restorative). She recommends 1oz of the plant mixed with a pint of boiling water, to make an infusion which is considered a ‘strengthener’. She also recommends the same infusion mixed with honey (yum, back to the bees again) and used as a gargle for sore throats and mouth ulcers.

 

In 1657 William Coles wrote Adam in Eden or Nature’s Paradise: The History of Plants, Fruits, Herbs and Flowers. In this ambitious volume he mentions self heal several times, including making a remedy for quinsy (a serious complication arising from tonsillitis) made with a combination of self heal, jew’s ear fungus and elder honey. Seriously, if you are at risk of quinsy though, see a doctor! It’s worth noting that Coles was a staunch advocate of the Doctrine of Signatures, the idea that plants look like the part of the body they are useful for healing. He believed that God would have wanted mankind to know what each plant was useful for. Sadly, this strategy doesn’t always follow through, which is why it’s always important to research your herbs thoroughly and scientifically.

 

Coles also wrote that ‘There is not a better wound-herbe in the world’ and recommended it for leaning wounds to stop infection, and to soothe the nipples of breastfeeding women who had been bitten by their enthusiastic babies. He also concurred with Mrs Grieve in that it is a useful tonic for sore throats, particularly those accompanied by a fever, most likely tonsillitis again.

 

Culpeper tells us that there is a proverb:

That he needs neither physician nor surgeon that hath self-heal and sanicle to help himself.

 

So self heal, along with other herbs such as sanicle, mentioned here, can be seen as an essential part of a herbal first aid kit, or it certainly was as far back as the 17th century, if not much earlier.

 

The Lab

 

In modern medicine, there is hope that self heal may hold some anti-viral properties, and may even be useful in the treatment or prevention of cancer. The plant is capable of inhibiting a virus’s ability to replicate itself, so may be very useful in modern anti-viral drugs. So far tests have been done involving the herpes virus and HIV. More testing needs to be done though, to find conclusive evidence on this.

 

There is also some indication that self heal could be useful for diabetes sufferers, although again, this theory is in its very early stages.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

 

 

There is anecdotal superstition that witches grew self heal in their gardens to hide their malicious activities. Self heal is so common that most people would not look twice at it, so perhaps it was used to mask other, more interesting herbs.

 

Culpeper wrote that self heal was ‘another herb of Venus’, lending the plant a feminine aspect and associations with both the planet and the goddess of the same name. Venus speaks to us of love, sex, sensuality and beauty; not just physical beauty but art, music and all types of creativity. Self heal can be seen as a catalyst for not only healing the body, but healing the soul, and reminding us not to be ‘all work and no play’. Self heal on the altar or in a sacred space can be a symbol for repairing or building a friendship, or perhaps a more intense relationship.

 

Venus is also associated with wealth, and by extension work, business, career and other opportunities. Self heal in a button-hole might be an easy amulet to wear for a job interview, or a business meeting. If this is too ostentatious, try some leaves or flowers in a tiny bag in your pocket, perhaps with a small rock to remind you to be grounded and true to your ideals.

 

Venus, as a goddess, is also associated with victory and triumphs, so self heal can be used as a tool to help you achieve your goals. Place leaves or flowers around you while you visualise your goals coming to fruition. Picture yourself where you want to be; getting that job, winning that race, overcoming stage fright or, for writers like myself, getting that next book contract! Crush a leaf and smear some of the juice on your forehead. This is activating your magical and energetic connection to the parts of the universe you cannot see with your eyes alone, and will help cement your will. Remember to make a commitment to do the work required in the physical world, and ensure you stick to it.

 

If the plants grow nearby, water them and thank them for their help. Always wash the juice off your skin afterwards, and if an irritation occurs, as with any substance, wash it off immediately and seek medical help if necessary.

 

Home and Hearth

 

If you don’t mind the odd ‘weed’ in your lawn, let self heal be when it pops up in your garden. The delightful purple flowers will encourage bees and other beauties, and purple reminds us of spirit, universal energy and balance. As such, you can pick some of the flowers for your late spring/early summer altar, depending on when your flowering season occurs. Mine are just starting to wilt, the glorious violet blooms dropping away to leave the empty flowers heads which have a similarity to ears of corn, making them a lovely decoration for a harvest celebration or Lammas altar.

 

I Never Knew…

 

In Ireland the herb is known as Ceannbhán beag, which translates as ‘little bog cotton’.

 

All images copyright 2017, Mabh Savage.

 

***

 

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of:

 

 A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors

 

 

and

 

Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

 

 

Follow Mabh on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

GoodGod!

August, 2017

Meet the Gods: Barleycorn

Merry meet.

Lughnasadh is celebrated this month – traditionally on the 1st, astrologically on the 7th. It is the first harvest, a festival of grain. While traditionally in Europe, corn meant grain, many Americans have come to think of corn only as maize. Because I know of no fields of rye, oats or barley here in Connecticut, maize has been my go-to grain.

While it’s found its way into my rituals as corn muffins, corn dollies and fry bread – to go with the bounty from my garden – I had never sought to welcome the corn god to my circle. This year I will.

Most cultures have a god of grains, fields or agriculture.

 

(Frey)

In the Norse tradition, Frey was the Corn God, the Lord of the Fields. He rode a great white horse and his hair was the golden color of wheat. Every year, he rode into the field where only the last sheath of grain remained standing. He sacrificed himself as it was cut, dying for the good of all as his blood enriched the field to assure next year’s harvest was bountiful.

 

(Osiris)

In Egyptian mythology, it is Osiris who is associated with grain and its lifecycle. He is represents fertility as each year he is harvested and killed. The dead Osiris is put into the ground as seeds which grow to be grain, bringing him to life again.

 

(Yum Kaaz)

The Maya god of corn and wild vegetation is Yum Kaaz, Lord of the Forest.

He is portrayed as a young man with an ear of corn growing out of his head,” according to AllAboutHistory.org.

 

(Centeotl)

Centeotl is the Aztec God (or Goddess) of Maize. Farmers would offer him fruits and grains from their fields that he might protect their fields from wild animals.

Perhaps the best known corn king and harvest god is John Barleycorn. In the English tradition, August 1 marked the sacrificial death of the Horned God in his incarnations as the Corn King or John Barleycorn whose reign began on the Summer Solstice. He is the personification of the lifecycle of grain – from planting to harvest, then malting to make whiskey and beer, and then to planting again.

There is a ballad sung about him.

 

John Barleycorn is the spirit of the fields that at this time are full crops given life by the sun. And it is in the last sheaf or stalk harvested that his spirit is strongest, so he’s dressed in fine clothing, or formed into the shape of a man and this effigy would be cut and typically burned with much celebrating. His sacrifice for the land, for the people and for the goddess became beer and malt whiskey and bread.

The Druid’s sacrificial burning of a larger-than-life wicker man may have been the inspiration for Burning Man. Both rituals are associated with death and rebirth of the god of the grain.

Lughnasadh is a time of transformation, of rebirth and new beginnings. It’s a time of plenty, a time to reap the bounty of your efforts and celebrate abundance that will sustain us as the wheel turns.

After calling the quarters, plan to light a candle shaped like an ear of corn to welcome one or more of these gods. Meanwhile, I would like to know how you’ve worked with them in your practice.

Merry part; and merry meet again.

 

The Bad Witches Guide

August, 2017

 

 

The Bad Witches Guide to Hexing Herbs

 

I am a bad witch. There are a long list of reasons why I am a bad witch. Having been out of the broom closet for some considerable number of years I would on occasion get asked “but you’re a good witch though?” My response to that depending on the person asking but I found I started to say “yes, a very, very good witch” rather darkly as it usually got the point across.

I have been an amateur herbalist all my life. From hedgerows and fields running barefoot I knew more than most well-read folks by the time I was 11. As I grew I sought to back up my knowing and instinct (I would make, pastes, potions and perfumes for as far back as I remember) with reading. My first proper herbal was David Hoffman’s Complete Illustrated Holistic herbal. I was 16 when I “shared” this book with my mum. It has everything from a step by step to poultices to lozenges as well as photographs of the whole or part of the plant you use.

From that point I started using herbs and collecting herbal books, magickal herbals came later and I have yet to find a herbal magickal that pleases me, well at least completely. I find the “gender” of herbs quite weird and in some cases just wrong (chamomile is often magickally listed as a masculine herb but it’s known as “mother’s herb” so that just seems off to me). A lot of the time the American and British version of common names are different (a Bluebell in American is what we would call a Harebell, and that stuff matters!) This is why knowing the Latin can be as important as being able to identify the plant. You should also know if it is rare or toxic, and beware that doses and strengths can vary plant to plant, season to season. I don’t use rare or endangered plants like mandrake, when I can happily substitute with other thing. Ginger root works well, but so does galangal. Wear gloves if you need know it can cause skin irritation and don’t burn things that going to cause irritation to the eyes, throat and lungs (like pepper, mustard and chilli) at least not in an enclosed space.

Now when I say harm and hex, I don’t mean straight up poison people, which is perfectly possible to do from the most random things (it is possible to poison someone with lettuce, dose is everything). I mean using herbs and spices, from your garden or kitchen cupboard for their left-hand use.

 

Well let’s start with pepper.

For the purposes of this Piper nigrum is the fruit of a tall vine and white, red and green pepper are the same berry at different stages of ripeness. Pepper is put in food as a spell with salt as a banishing to unwanted or “evil” energies or spirits. After a while the digestive properties and flavour became something we just got used to and it became standard. A simple ring of salt and pepper is a great way to get rid of unwanted folks.

Pepper plays a significant part in my infamous F%*k Off powder. (My powder has a unique blend of ingredients to really, unequivocally dive the point home in a jar or poppet situation.) I know it’s a condiment but you would be surprised how effective it is! The difference between a “go away” and a stronger intention is dose and the other things with it! Obviously the better quality and freshness the more potent the effect. If you ever deal with it freshly ground in bulk (it’s popular for a reason) you will not be lacking in potency.

 

Nutmeg Myristica fragrans is a common spice that tastes great but can of course have a dark side. Too much can give visions and vomiting and even death! It was used as an abortifacient which I imagine was expensive and not as good as many common European herbal “moon waters”. I am in no way suggesting you poison anyone, especially yourself! However a pinch to a poppet (is known to “wake” it) or in some incense “draws and attracts”. In larger quantities in a hex/curse jar or binding it disorientates and blinds enemies (some folks who have smoked it and survived said they felt like they were drowning in mud). You can even add it banishing work, it is the same plant as mace after all!

 

Roses Rosaceae. You might be surprised that the best part of this plant (come on you were thinking thorns) is actually rosehips. Rosehips, the edible fruit of the rose plant can be made into syrups and other sweet treats, but inside a rosehip are some very useful terrible seeds! Rosehip seeds are my “crotch crickets” hex par excellence! Sometimes that guy/gal just needs to be a bit more careful where they drop their underwear, and with whom! A good phallic/vulvic symbol in a bag or jar with some rosehip seeds, and a pinch of pepper for good measure should do the trick! Handle carefully and wear gloves because you don’t want to get caught red-handed…so to speak!

 

Fresh bulbs of onion

Onion Allium cep, has a long history of health and healing work. However it is also strong and can be used to banish or remove too. Onions make great poppet substitutes, you can even remove the very centre and add soil from a foot print, a folded photograph or a name. You can then pin it shut and “throw it away” (preferably into running water) or keep it in a jar, or get creative! Place it at a cross-roads, put it in a bog or swamp. You can simply cut one and run it across someone’s name.

 

The truth is any herb that can heal can also harm. If it is powerful it can do either. If your words say “love and light” but deep in your heart you mean the opposite, your magick isn’t going to be all love and light not that all love and light is healthy! It dishonest and ungrounded. Most folks whose magick “doesn’t work” come from this conflict. The desire and what they say and they want are in conflict with each other. Sometimes the healthiest response is to yell F$*K OFF! Because sometimes that’s the only thing that gets the point across!

 

I’m rather fond of cussing in my cursing. It gets exactly what I mean across. It gives the exact energy to my work that I really mean. You shouldn’t curse lightly, but you should always mean it, balls to bone. The same with any healing. You have to actually care.

 

Bad Witches Guide

July, 2017

 

 

The Bad Witches Guide to Love Spells


I am a bad witch. There are a long list of reasons why I am a bad witch. Having been out of the broom closet for some considerable number of years I would on occasion get asked “but you’re a good witch though?” My response to that depending on the person asking but I found I started to say “yes, a very, very good witch” rather darkly as it usually got the point across.

Good witches will either hand you a love spell without blinking or warn you off them completely. I however, am not a good witch.

The warnings are not without good reason. Love is a power thing. An energy and force that can move mountains. In messing around with this you might miss the BIG one/s. There is a real difference to being “in love” and actual love. In love is chemical attraction, a dizzy connection, an awakening. This always fades, but can also wax again. Real love, real connection is deeper than that and born out of respect and loyalty.

Most love spells are not actually about love, which is probably because most folks wanting a love spell, don’t actually want love either. Most love spells are about lust, loneliness and power games. That doesn’t mean something real cannot develop from a lust spell. Sex is fun and healthy after all. However problems really arise when they are done “in house” with a relationship. I have known wives desperate to stop their husbands cheating resorting to magick. It kept the marriage together for two more agonising years before blowing up.

No amount of magick can make someone really love you.

I have seen folks do magick consciously (and not) to draw the same kind of “wrong” or and over again. Sometimes they ask for “a Viking” or “a sexy Scorpio” and they get caught in this web of magick and cannot seem to easily free themselves. “Isn’t this exactly what you asked for” the Gods seem to say.

This can make people even swear off magick all together (as though it was its fault for your terrible taste!)

OMGdd you’re so judgey!”

Sometimes I am. I have done my share too of pushing on a pull door. In fact it is how I sort of met my husband. I was in a terrible relationship (I had been in it for nearly three and a half years) and I wrote a love spell (with the intention of fixing my relationship), however what I asked for was “my true love”. With six weeks I had moved out and was seeing my now husband of 16 years. I do wonder sometimes if I hadn’t done the spell would everything had happened so fast? I was married and a mum by 22 years old. I wouldn’t “undo” it. Yet it might have been good to have taken things slower!

However, no matter how weird or unlikely there tends to be strange jigsaw pieces that fit together and the world seems to conspire to put them in each other’s path.

So what makes a “good” love spell?

Well firstly sometimes you are the worst person to know what you actually need. Have a little faith, and ask for something good for you, something happy. What someone looks like might seem important but someone to hold your hand during your Dad’s funeral and actually make you feel better is far more important. A good love spell is about letting go of how you think it will be. If you are too hung up of that your truest love could walk straight past you because you were stubbornly clinging to this idea of a “type”. Some good therapy and an honest look to what you are calling to you helps. You really want your love to turn up will you are carrying enough emotional baggage to sink the Titanic? Are you loving (or at least trying) to love yourself, find your own worthiness? If someone loves you, can you accept that love, can you be loved graciously and love in return?

 

 

 

 

My True Loves Call

One red rose

One white rose

Ribbon (either pink, red or white)

Three candles (tea-lights are fine)

A dish or bowl of water

A pinch of powdered cinnamon.

A pink stone (rose quartz would be fine).

 

Place the bowl in the middle of the candles forming and equilateral triangle. Take a good sharp knife and cut the roses vertically in half. Take the “good half’s” and set aside. Light the candles and carefully add the rose petals from the other halves into the bowl saying.

I call to you through time and space, my true love, come and find your place.”

Slowly add the petals a little from each at a time. Sit with the pink stone in your hand or over your heart. Imagine you love someone romantically (don’t visualise a specific person) and imagine opening your heart and filling the stone with the light, a warm pink loving light. Imagine as you breath out you are radiating love and as you breath in accepting it gently. When you have done this for a few minutes add the stone to the bowl of water saying.

I shine with love, kind and true, my true love, I am ready for you.”

Add a pinch of cinnamon to the bowl and to the cut halves of the “good” roses now and say.

With passion, with kindness, with love, as below so above.”

Carefully but firmly bind the rose halves together with the ribbon.

I call through all space and time, my true love, a love Divine.

Your love is kind and true, you are ready for as I am for you.

We shall share, and love and grow; as above, so below.”

Sit with the candles and the bowl some time and extinguish the candle before leaving the bowl overnight. Burn the candles until burned out and keep the crystal in your pocket or with you for the next lunar month. Reserve a small bottle of the water and throw away the rest into running water. Keep the roses in a vase somewhere you can see them until they fade and then untie them and throw them in running water like a river or stream.

Love is a beautiful and mysterious thing but relationships take compromise, compassion and hard work. Be someone worth spending time with, and make sure you find someone worthy of you.

Exploring the Penumbra: First Steps in Sorcery Part 1

June, 2017

Foreword

This is a story about a chance experiment in consciousness I suddenly tried at the age of twenty-two which turned my life in a different direction. Over thirty-two years later, the experiment is still going on.

Or was it chance? Accounts of similar experiments were certainly in the air:

in 1968, a graduate anthropology student named Carlos Castaneda published The Teachings of don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge, describing his experiences learning

native American sorcery from an alleged Yaqui brujo named don Juan Matus. I picked it up at the Aztec bookstore at San Diego State University. Wisdom from this hemisphere was a novelty to me back then.

This book affected people in different ways. D.D. went out to the desert regularly and took peyote and magic mushrooms and tried to fly. At the student union one evening three chicanos informed me that it was a sociological fable inaccessible to gringos.

I found don Juan fascinating but didn’t draw a connection between the book and my own experiments starting about this time. I only noticed similarities beginning with his next two books, A Separate Reality and Journey to Ixtlan: we were both engaged in a practice he called ‘not-doing’ to build up a special kind of energy normally inaccessible to us; and we both tried to conserve this energy instead of squandering it.

This, then, is an account of my own explorations. I have worked mostly alone, although at times I have had partners, who are listed in the dedication. Where an exploration comes from them, I append the explorer’s initials in brackets.

It still seems funny to me that a barking dog changed the course of my life.

A Barking Dog

In 1968 I was living in a small studio apartment on Winona Avenue in east San Diego, and feeling frustrated. I had been trying for several minutes now to meditate in the Hindu manner, by withdrawing my mind from my senses. The trouble was this dog next door who insisted on barking every three minutes. I’d start withdrawing my attention from my senses when, bark, bark, in they rushed again.

Suddenly for no reason I turned my attention to the barking, letting it in instead of trying to keep it out. In a few moments I felt very light and relaxed. My ears were taking in all available sounds together, including the dog, traffic on University Avenue nearby, the refrigerator motor kicking in, an occasional plane passing overhead, somewhere a radio. It wasn’t a clamor; there were spaces between and around the sounds.

I started noticing things that were invisible before: the shadows of the bushes by the window, quivering a little from wind; overhead, squiggly lights playing across the fishnetted ceiling; Navajo white paint in the upper left corner of the wall starting to chip and peel away. Suddenly I was aware of a cramp I’d been ignoring in my left side, and shifted positions.

I went for a walk up Winona towards El Cajon Boulevard: birds, car engines, horns, barking here and there; telephone poles, power lines, cracks in the sidewalk, an alpine forest of TV antennas. Everything was in view, not just the stuff in front of my eyes.

I felt very light and peppy. Feelings out of old memories flowed through my mind, the nameless flavors of forgotten moments. Very loose feeling. This energy, I saw, had always been available, but was always tied up in filtering out supposedly irrelevant sensations. Apparently, filtering them out took a lot more energy than including them in awareness, because now I had a surplus.

Looking and Gazing

As I listened to background sounds, I became aware of things seen to the side, out of the corners of my eyes. I had the power to shift part of my attention to the side of wherever my eyes were pointing.

I experimented by placing two objects side by side, a clock and a framed photograph, and standing four or five feet back from them. First I looked at the clock; then, without moving my eyes, I shifted more of my attention to the photograph, then brought it back to the clock again, and so on back and forth several times, pausing now and then to feel the effects. When I shifted part of my attention to the photograph, something seemed to open up in the back of my head and there was a gentle flow of energy there.

While talking to C. one day, I tried extending my attention from her face to a potted plant on her right. Almost immediately, the tension in the room went down. I could look at her without falling into her face, mentally speaking, so I could really look at her now, in a relaxed sort of way. Of course I wasn’t really looking at C., I was looking at C.-sitting-in-the-chair-next-to-the-potted-plant; but she seemed unaware of that and liked the change.

If I paid attention to things where my eyes were pointing, I called that ‘looking’. If I kept my eyes on something and directed part of my attention to the side of it (or above or below it), I called that ‘gazing to the side’. Pointing the eyes to the side of an object and spreading the attention to the object itself I called ‘gazing from the side’. The first sort of gazing was easier to do with things nearby, the second with things farther away.

Like Castaneda I gazed at foliage and shadows. Shadows seem to acquire a depth or sheen when you gaze at them. They are all colors and blown by the wind. At noon cars glide by on their shadow carpets. Passing along store windows, I gazed at the reflections in the windows of cars driving by. When G. and I went for a walk down the beach, I gazed obliquely at the ocean while listening to the surf. Suddenly I started running, my ears full of falling waves. I was not a runner, I was generally out of shape; yet I ran without weight and felt no fatigue, just stopping when I stopped. G. was a block and a half back, trudging along amiably.

Not-Doing

“ ‘Do you know anything about the world around you?’ he asked.

‘I know all kinds of things,’ I said.

‘I mean do you ever feel the world around you?’

‘I feel as much of the world around me as I can.’

‘That’s not enough. You must feel everything, otherwise the world loses

its sense…I am talking about the fact that you’re not complete. You have no peace…You think about yourself too much…and that gives you a strange fatigue that makes you shut off the world around you and cling to your arguments. Therefore, all you have is problems.’ ” 1

Passages like these in A Separate Reality, which appeared in 1971, convinced me that I was practicing a subset of what Castaneda called ‘sorcery’. I identified ‘feeling the world around you’ with sensing everything I was aware of at once, with equal attention. Engulfed in my senses, I thought about myself rarely, and felt very peaceful and energetic as a result. It felt like I was living on the outside of my body; every day was a day at the beach. Apparently, mental talk produces a feeling of being divided from sensations, but over the years I had ceased to notice this because it was nearly constant. I only became aware of it when my mind grew quieter and the division blurred.

In Journey to Ixtlan, don Juan calls this ‘not-doing’. ‘Not-doing’ means not doing what you usually do, or doing what you usually do not do, performing everyday acts in an unusual way. By including ignored sensations in my awareness, I was doing what I don’t usually do; and because this switched off talking to myself mentally, I was simultaneously not doing what I usually do. Thus, every act of not-doing has two sides: something unusual is done, and something usual is not done. The effects of the former are felt almost immediately, while the effects of the latter are felt only over time.

While healing in inner silence from years of mental chatter, I began to see that the thoughts I habitually indulge in poison my life.

Lumina and Penumbra

While I could do these things in any situation, I was most aware of their immediate effects in quiet moments, and their cumulative effects during relatively peaceful periods of my life. Though far-reaching, these effects were subtle and I had become insensitive from years of mental talk and frontal focus.

I liked to sit quietly for a while after each exploration, feeling its effects. Similarly, each exploration began while my mind was still engaged in following some train of thought from the previous moment. Letting in background sensations, I watched each mental conversation fade away, the way one watches a sail disappear at sea. Thus, each exploration began and ended in savoring the moment just past. Sitting quietly afterwards became as important as the exploration itself.

As I grew more sensitive I could detect more rapid fluctuations in my attention. I discovered that I didn’t really look and think at the same time, but the two alternated rapidly. They seemed to be happening together when my attention to energy flows in my body was duller. In motion photography, images succeeding each other too swiftly for attention produce an illusion of continuity; so in this case, thinking and frontal vision seemed to coexist in the same moment. The old silent films had fewer frames per second, so that the images seemed to flicker. I was catching the flicker as attention oscillated between frontal vision and thought.

Thinking and looking, I reasoned, must use the same mental space or frequency. Because this space was like the narrow beam of a flashlight, I called it the ‘lumina’.

When I spread more of my attention to peripheral vision, hearing, and the other senses, I talked to myself less. Background sensation is more continuous because there is less interruption by thought. Withdrawing the extra attention from the periphery and confining it to frontal vision once more got me back into thinking again. Peripheral sensation, then, must use a different mental space. Things seen from the corners of the eyes were half-hidden, like objects in half-shadow, so I called this mental space the ‘penumbra’.

Periphery and Umbra

In 1969 I was living alone on Estrella Avenue in east San Diego. For days at a time I saw no one except when I had breakfast at a corner coffee shop at Winona and El Cajon Boulevard, for, as I recall, $1.25! Outside of giving my order, I would go for days without talking to anyone. When this happens, it becomes difficult to talk at all; you feel a certain hesitation due to lack of practice.

I was exploring the penumbra a good deal, taking advantage of my unusual isolation. My attention was evenly distributed throughout my visual and auditory fields. My thoughts quieted down to whispers, ultimately becoming flickerings on the edge of vision, like distant lightnings. If I kept my attention on the edge of the visual field, these flickerings or pre-thoughts died out there; if my attention wavered, they entered the lumina and stimulated auditory memory, the basis of mental talking. At that time, on walks to and from breakfast, that didn’t happen very often. My mind was unusually quiet that spring. Where do these impulses to thought come from?

This limit of the visual field, which I called ‘the periphery’, was peculiar in that it had only an inside edge. Picture frames have inner and outer edges because we can see beyond them; but by definition one cannot see beyond the visual field. It extends just so far, and then it somehow plays out. When I kept my attention on the periphery, I saw the visual field as one thing, one visual object with only an inner edge. There was something uncanny about this that my mind couldn’t comprehend. In a way the visual field was like my life, and the periphery like my first and last moments, at birth and just before death. Since I can’t see beyond my life, it also has a limit with only an inner edge.2

Keeping my eyeglass frames in view helped to maintain my attention at the periphery, since they were close to the edge of vision, and this kept my attention focused in the penumbra. This was useful done by itself; done with other explorations, such as peripheral listening, it took my mind down to deeper levels of quiet.

Watching the edge of vision distributes the attention evenly throughout the visual field, and stops the eyes from tracking. A test was devised for this. Sweep your head slowly from side to side; if individual objects become prominent, you are still tracking, or it’s started up again. Try doing this in front of a mirror; if your face comes into focus, you are tracking. [C.E.] The test itself is an effective way of beginning the exploration.

The visual periphery is not just to the sides; it includes what little I can see of my face without using a reflecting surface: a fuzzy blob for my nose, overhanging eyebrows, eyelashes seen through bright sunlight. Small children do not yet associate their reflections with themselves, and so go through a period of liking to look at ‘the baby in the mirror’. According to one writer, at this stage they see themselves as headless. Once I realized I am the baby in the mirror, I began ignoring the little fuzzy sensations I once thought were all the head I had, back in the days when I lived on the outside of my body.

According to the book On Having No Head 3, learning to attend to those sensations again can lead to an experience similar to what Zen Buddhists call satori, or enlightenment. The viewpoint that one is headless focuses attention on these ignored sensations, keeping it there longer.

Although I couldn’t see beyond the periphery, I knew what was there, for I only had to turn my head to see what was hidden. When I wasn’t turning my head, I was dimly aware of things in back of me. This sense that there was something more to be seen seemed to reside in its own mental space. I called this space the ‘umbra’, or shadow. There was also some sort of shadow, or opening, behind my attention; it moved with my head and therefore remained hidden. I could feel it there, just behind my eyes, where energy was flowing.

1 A Separate Reality, pp. 12-13.

2 I owe this comparison to the philosopher R.G.Collingwood, who owed it in turn to the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. See bibliography.

3 Harding, D.E See bibliography.

(graphic from https://abstract.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/754369/)

Fox Dreaming: Family Magic

May, 2017

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On Easter Monday 2017 I had a long and rather complex dream about a fox costume. (I had this dream during the night following the day where I had been running around a snowy forest in my bear suit while my husband filmed me, eating snow and sleeping in my cave. This actually happened, in ordinary reality! (The footage is part of an art film I am currently working on).

However, in my dream I had a very beautiful and realistic fox costume. The head was separate and fitted my head perfectly, like a helmet. It was also very life-like. I really BECAME A FOX wearing it. I decided to walk from the forest behind our house to the nearest town and enjoy the spring sunshine.

As I was strolling around a small market by the harbour, I got so hot that I took the fox costume off and put it down for a moment. Next thing I knew one of the stall holders was offering it for sale on her trestle table. I found myself faced with a dilemma: confront her? Buy my own costume back?! – At that point I woke up.

My husband served me a cup of tea in bed and I told him the dream. He makes daily phone calls to his elderly mother who lives about 400 km south of where I had the dream (in Sweden). Lo and behold : that day she too insisted on telling him her dream from the night before she lives in a small town (in real life) where she was running a market stall and looking for things to sell (something she does not do in real life!)

 

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My husband said: “AHA! So now we can find out what happened to Imelda’s Fox Costume! Was there a fox costume for sale on your table? She said: “Yes there was, but it didn’t sell so Imelda can have it back!!”

To me this Family Magic! It is not just living with a husband who tolerates my “wyrd ways” (pun intended!) or raising three natural born shamans (which became the title of my first book). It is bringing a playful awareness to all we do.

It is setting out dinner plates for invisible but “not-so-imaginary” friends and companions. It is offering some food and drink to the ancestors as well on special occasions. It is asking the Spirit of our House to help all of us in our everyday endeavours and to provide safe space for all we do.

It is sharing our dreams over breakfast (and many days there is not much to share or we have more urgent thing to discuss, such as: did anyone borrow my calculator? I have a physics exam this morning!!

But sometimes we hit the jackpot!!

Imelda Almqvist

 

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About the author

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally.  She was a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit in July 2016.

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

http://shamanismsummit.com/

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