Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Discovering Anu—The Second of the Great Dreams (Woo)

[Please remember my disclaimers and rules (linked here) if you'd like to engage this post here or in any of my social media spaces.]  

Despite a lifetime of atheism, in the summer of 2020, I was called by a prehistoric Irish goddess of war, death, prophecy, and magic named The Morrigan. This is my story of Her contact (and eventually our work together).

You can go back to the last part here

Or you can go all the way back to where the journey begins in the link here

In late summer of 2020, I learned the name of the woman who haunted my dreams…or at least what she called herself—Anu. There was only one problem. I didn't know who or what an "Anu" was. I'd never heard that name. (And yes, I've spent the last three years considering that I had somehow heard it and forgotten.) I knew almost nothing about polytheism or pagan deities outside of the Greek myths I studied in middle school, the ones that are very, very popular like Shiva, or the ones that have characters in the MCU.

Google searching Anu leads to a Mesopotamian sky god—sort of a hands-off deity who is mostly there to explain where the other gods came from. I did a day of reading, but just…NOTHING about that fit. Not the imagery I'd witnessed in dreams. Not the months of strange experiences during my waking hours. Not the magical awakening. Not the things that had been said. Not one damn thing. 

There was one other reference to Anu. It took a little more digging. I added crows and "big trees" to my search parameters and found an Irish deity that was typically considered to be one of the several aspects of a goddess called The Morrigan. (There's a pair of hills in Ireland called The Paps of Anu.) I had to admit that seemed like a slightly better match. There was something in Celtic lore called the Tree of Life, which seemed to be about as big as the tree I'd been dreaming of, and the crows were a very special animal to Her.

But even though the imagery sort of meshed a little better, it didn't make fucking sense. The Morrigan is a fierce goddess—like way, way epic ass-kicky. A deity of destiny, war, and death. Her purview in Irish mythography is predicting death and delighting in battle. I'm mostly a pacifist—at MOST, a reluctant participant in defensive violence or property damage. I certainly couldn't be said to be at all interested in death. Why would any entity this potentially violent—and distinctly Irish—be interested in a soft, diplomatic, quickly-approaching-middle-age American writer?

It just didn't track.

To understand the mindset I was in when I fell asleep that night, it is important to explain how frustrated I was with my entire woo-woo journey of the past few months. I was frustrated with all the dead ends in my research, frustrated with how tapped out I felt from spelling (that I couldn't seem to laser-focus my intention—"cast a spell" if you prefer that language—without wringing myself out for a day or two after), frustrated at how overwhelming all the changes to my life had been, frustrated that I couldn't sit down to the kind of meals I was used to eat, frustrated with my personal life, and just generally feeling kind of like I was fucking done with this "magic/spiritual fucking awakening," and that I would like my life back, thank you very much.

I didn't ask for what was happening. I didn't ask for any of it. 

I was starting to understand how certain things worked. Being open (meditation, energy work, whatever words people want to use) could be made more difficult if I ignored my body. Junk food. Being sedentary. I could kind of "turn down the volume" by deliberately treating myself like crap.

So to really get where this dream was coming from, it's important to understand in that moment just how “Take THAT, Woo!” I was feeling. I sat around all day, didn’t even go for a walk, ate cheese dip, cookies, Cheez-Its, and a couple of hot dogs in some baked beans for dinner that night. I was so sick, but it felt good to kind of rebel against my body.

I had a hard time falling asleep with the indigestion and a bout of restless leg (from sitting still all day), but eventually I drifted off.

In the dream, I was trying to pour out the liquid from a cup, but it wouldn’t stop coming and the Queen of Cups (from Tarot) was watching me with sort of a sad-but-compassionate look on her face. “I’m afraid that’s not how it works. It can't be emptied now."

And so I threw the cup and tried to walk away. “SHE’S not going to like that,” the Queen of Cups said.

Next I ran into Justice (another Tarot character). And one side of Justice’s scales were tipped below the other. “You seem a little out of balance,” Justice said. 

"That’s right,” I said, and I started eating a hot dog as I locked eyes with her. And in one of those dream logic moments, even though we were roughly the same size I stepped onto the scale on the heavy side that she was holding. The more hot dog I ate, the more the scales shifted.

“You know what you’re doing?” Justice asked. 

I shoved in the last quarter of hot dog in a single bite while I stared straight at her.

“Okay,” Justice said. “But SHE’S not going to be happy.”

Next I saw the Hermit. (Yes, another Tarot archetype).

"I don't think you should go that way," he said gesturing to an easy and downhill path. "This one is your way." He shone the light of his lantern up a difficult and overgrown path bristling with craigy rock formations and thick with treacherous switchbacks.

"Fuck you," I said, and headed down the hill along the easy path.

"SHE'S not going to like that," he said.

A regal looking woman in a thin but plush white robe sat on a throne between two pillars. However, her throne was affixed to the ceiling and she sat upon it upside down. Behind her there was a path through thick foliage that stretched for miles. Standing lamps glittered magnificently with crystals that somehow hovered, suspended in the air swaying and spinning above the lights themselves, and I was lit from below by glowing tiles in the floor.

Even upside down, she looked exalted, majestic, and her eyes glittered with a fearsome intensity. “Do you know who I am?” she asked.

“The High Priestess?” I asked, recognizing yet another Tarot character. "But more…"

“I am called many things,” she said. “But you already knew that. You’ve seen how many names I have….WE have.”

At this point I can’t remember what was said. There was a conversation (or was there?) but I don’t remember what it was. The next thing I remember was the sudden dream realization that she was upside down because she was reversed. (Like in a tarot read.) I can’t remember if I said something or she could somehow hear my thoughts, but she was aware of my realization.

“Am I reversed?” She asked. “Am I really?”

And then I realized the lit floor panels were skylights and the standing glittery lamps were not standing from the floor but were chandeliers––the floating crystals simply hanging from thin threads. The land stretched out above me and the sky was below. 

Because I was standing on the ceiling. And everything was upside down.

“Or are YOU?” she finished.

Realizing I was the upside down one led to a moment of climbing “back to the floor” that made dream sense (but not gravity physics sense) at the time.

From my new vantage with my feet on the floor, I could see that the two pillars were two other “versions” of the Empress, standing still and tall to mimic pillars. They now looked like the trio I had so often seen, the left wearing black and the right grey.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"I've answered that question," she said.

“But there's more to it. You’re so often three,” I said. "But sometimes five…and sometimes one. And sisters sometimes…but not always."

"To understand me is to be comfortable in ambiguity."

"And sometimes it's like it's all names of one thing…"

“You’re so close,” she said.

And then, in the altered consciousness of my dream, I experienced one of those “flashback collages” that you see in movies when they’re going through the information they got through the movie that makes them realize that thing that they should have noticed all along—tallying up the clues that were there the whole time. I remember I flashed back to a dream where there were triplets in the restaurant and another where a giant crow was talking to me in the woman’s voice as the smaller crows filled my hands with rocks while I balanced on a giant tree. I remembered the dreams I've written about here where there were five crows and one transformed. I remember seeing her alone, as three, as five, and sometimes more. I remember seeing her transform, shifting between visages as easily as some people change expressions. I remembered seeing her as sisters, but usually simply…ASPECTS. 

And then I got it. Not the online research "WTF" moment, but really really GOT it.

“No….” I said.

“There it is,” she said, standing from the throne she sat in. And as she stood, the scintillating colors of her robe and those of the two flanking her to the left and right began to grow darker and darker until they were black. But like Anish-Kapoor black. Like suck-in-the-light black. 

“That's not possible,” I said. “You can't be......"

"It is your choice to accept me, but I will NOT be ignored."

"I don't…"

“Let me divest you of a few assumptions you seem to be laboring under. The first is that you wouldn't be interesting to me. The second is that I am capable of being thwarted by a FUCKING HOTDOG.”

And that is when I woke up. Fully. Refreshed after 8 hours. I almost never wake straight up. There's always drifting upwards. But that day I snapped awake instantly, completely rejuvenated despite the previous night's exhaustion and indulgences.

I would discover and learn more over the coming months, but now I understood at least this one thing. Anu was a single aspect of what was trying to contact me.

I was being called by The Morrigan.

More to come….

Monday, January 30, 2023

First Contact (Woo)

[Please remember my disclaimers and rules (linked here) if you'd like to engage this post here or in any of my social media spaces.]  

Despite a lifetime of atheism, in the summer of 2020, I was called by The Morrigan, a prehistoric Irish goddess of war, death, prophecy, and magic. This is my story of being called by Her (and eventually our work together).

You can go back to the last part here

Or you can go all the way back to where the journey begins in the link here

Today I understand more than I did in the summer of 2020.

I don't understand everything—I don't understand MOST things, really—and I've given up attempting to understand those things that seem to exist in the liminal space of what can be quite easily explained with transpersonal psychology, and what in the 21st century we're calling supernatural. These days I can look back on some of what was happening that summer, and at least understand the fundamentals.

At the time, of course, I had no idea.

Learning to close and open ("shields up") was a fundamental shift for me in whatever the hell was going on. I didn't know what I had met in my dreams or if its explanation of what was happening was accurate, but it worked. Whether it was a mindset or actually magic, it worked. I was again able to do simple things like go grocery shopping without being overwhelmed by people's energy. I could sit in a drive-through without sensing everyone's impatience. I could talk to someone I sensed malevolent intentions from without my skin crawling in revulsion. I could go about my life.

But I also had to learn new ways of doing almost everything. I was undergoing a transformation, and my old habits no longer served me. I couldn't eat in the same way I had before. Junk food was abhorrent to me—I could handle some salty, but greasy and fatty would make me sick, and didn't taste good anymore. I didn't dislike sweets, but I'd lost all cravings for it. I could barely stand how bright and vivid colors were and how intense music sounded. Light seemed too bright. Simple tactile sensations felt like almost as much as I could stand.  I came home from work every night, ate bland food and raw vegetables, and tried to figure out how magic worked.

I had trouble sleeping—shaken awake night after night by dreams of a woman (or women) in black. After she taught me how to close myself, so I could (mostly) function from day to day, she went back to saying cryptic shit about how I needed to open my eyes and know her. 

After a month it had begun to pass the point of an oddity and a novelty. I was starting to get desperate. I was hearing voices. My entire taste palette had been scrambled—my favorite foods made me sick. I couldn't sleep through the night. I felt drenched in how unhappy most people were. And the volume on sensation had been turned up too high. 

I was still Chris The Little Skeptic™ at this point. For me, magic was a concentration of will that steered the unconscious. Spells were rituals of focus. Accoutrements were affectations. This all had a perfectly reasonable explanation. And I wasn't quite ready to imagine that something outside of me was trying to get my attention. I thought I was working something desperately urgent out in the deep corners of my psychology at night, and this woman represented something that I needed to grapple with.

But my confidence that I had all the answers was wavering. Magic was working for me in ways that were technically not impossible, but at least seemed implausible in their statistical improbability. I was experiencing more and more events that were not so easy to dismiss as an overactive imagination.  Maybe…just maybe there was something beyond what I could easily and rationally explain as purely natural. One way or another though, I had to figure it out. My life was upside down, and I was sure I was going crazy.

I desperately reached out to all the magic practitioners I knew to help me figure out what was going on, and their advice was unanimous. 

"Something is trying to contact you."

I felt a curl of terror corkscrew up my spine.

All the people I talked to had differing advice about how careful to be and what I should do about something trying to contact me (from warding my bedroom to invoking protective spirits), but they all agreed about what was happening.

"How do I figure out what she is?" I asked one of them.

"Have you you tried asking her?" she said.

I hadn't. It hadn't even occurred to me. I knew how to lucid dream at least to the point where I could control myself. Why hadn't I simply asked?

That night I fell asleep with a mantra going through my head. "Who are you? Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?"

In the dream I stood on an ancient battlefield after the carnage had completed. Bodies and arrows and swords and spears and shields littered the ground all around me, and in the distance a fire burned and curls of black smoke smudged the sky. Crows (or ravens, I thought, but now I know it was crows) stood cawing amidst the bodies, bloodcurdling caws that sounded like screams. In particular five of them began to hop towards me, and they transformed into five women wearing black. The one in the front—the one that most often did the talking to me—wore something between a duster and a dress (with open legs) over leather armor. 

"You must prepare for battle," she said. "You must know me."

I could feel the dream fading away, but I suddenly realized I was dreaming. I remembered what I had to ask.

"Who are you?" I asked. "Who are you? Who are you?"

Her eyes looked at mine. "I am She. I am Queen. I am many. I am all. Among us you can call me…"

I woke up twisted into my sheets, my hands clenched into fists around my blanket, with jagged breaths hitching out of me.

But I had heard it…in those last seconds between dream and wake, I'd heard a name. A name that I had never heard before. 


[More to come soon…]

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Three Gifts and a Lesson—The First of the Great Dreams (Woo)

[Please remember my disclaimers and rules (linked here) if you'd like to engage this post here or in any of my social media spaces.]  

I am a heathen witchcrafty heretic pagan, and I work with The Morrigan, an Irish goddess of war, death, prophecy, and magic. This is my story of being called by Her (and eventually our work together).

You can go back to the last part here

Or you can go all the way back to where the journey begins in the link here

July 2020 was well under way, and I was actively trying to explore what magic could do, could not do, and how it was going to fit into my life. I was still a skeptic trying to fit it into a rational-sounding box. But that was becoming more and more unconvincing.

I was delving deep into "magic" as a function of focused willpower and concentration—more a series of brain "hacks" designed to focus the unconscious than something "supernatural." I didn't need to worry about what was "true" in the claims about why magic worked, because I was putting a lot more energy towards what it could actually do. The unconscious can make connections the conscious mind doesn't, see opportunities it misses, and help guide behavior. We are constantly synthesizing a deluge of complex information and only ever actively thinking about a fraction of it, so by "steering" the unconscious towards a goal, one could change their mundane experience of reality. I didn't care if that was because the universe was sentient and we could get its attention, because there was a supernatural power could be tapped by people who owned a lot of candles and crystals, or if it was the power of our attention and focus used in a constellation of oft-misunderstood techniques that science already acknowledges.

I was beginning to come to the conclusion that trappings of magic—anything from an altar to spells to crystals to wands to candles—served as remembrancers, foci, and zeitgebers. An essential oil might not itself physiologically help a human relax, but if one made it a point to relax every time they smelled it—and it was a pleasant scent all over them—it COULD come to fulfil that function. A wand might not have any actual ability over a random bit of wood, but when infused with symbolic meaning to a person—much like, say, a flag or a uniform is so much more than mere cloth—it could represent much more. As creatures of habit, ritual, routine, and rote, we could surround ourselves in meaningful symbols, give significance to emblems, engage in purposeful visualizations, and repeat our desires in a way that would help us keep our concentration. This would steer our unconscious minds to adjust some of our "autopilot" functions towards outcomes we wanted to see. People might try to explain their magical tools with pseudoscientific terms like harmonic resonances, energy fields, or whatever, but those basically worked as props and landscape in deepening self-hypnosis.

It was all very neat and tidy, and fit cleanly into my understanding of science and human psychology. I could almost forget the things I had been going through that weren't quite so easy to explain away, like my anxiety symptoms shutting off or the fact that I could feel people before I could see or hear them. 

And life was about to get even more messy.

Of course, there were the dreams. Almost every night I would dream about a black-clad woman (or a trio of them or a quintet or sometimes more) who would cryptically enjoin me to know who she was (who they were) or tell me I was "spilling out everywhere" if she (they) said anything else at all. I had no idea what any of that meant or who she was or why she was in my dreams night after night.

It wasn't just my dreams that were going bananapants. In my waking life, I had begun to feel like something was ineluctably following me. I had the distinct sensation of being watched and of a presence in my peripheral vision. Always it was just a shadow or just a weird tree or bush when I turned and looked, but it was becoming more and more frequent. And I know what I'm about to describe is a very subjective feeling, and I'm labeling it through the lens of two years of revisionist interpretation, but it fits. And it fit at the time even though I didn't really think about it in these terms.

I felt like I was being hunted.

There was one other thing happening, but unlike the dreams and the weird feelings, I didn't realize the significance of it at the time, and maybe I'm remembering it inaccurately. It barely pinged my radar, and certainly didn't do so as something extramundane. I was seeing a lot of crows. Everywhere I looked there were crows hanging around. Small groups. Big groups. A few small murders even though it wasn't quite the season for it. They seemed particularly bold—waiting until I was very close to fly off, landing close by to cock their heads and stare, or screaming unrelentingly at me from the telephone wires on which they perched. I didn't think much of it until later when I started realizing how important crows were in the iconography of The Morrigan.

There was a lot of dismissing these feelings and events because of the pandemic. I thought maybe I was jumping at shadows and suffering from an overactive imagination. I had read stories about people dreaming intensely because of the stress and isolation. I even thought the crows were just enjoying the fact that there were fewer people out and they…uh…ruled the roost…so to speak.

In mid-July I had a dream. It was the first of many dreams where the woman/women who had been haunting me spoke in words that were less cryptic (though far from straightforward). I was standing on a branch of an enormous tree so large and wide that I could have played a game of doubles tennis on it without ever worrying that I'd fall off. It was only one woman this time, and she wore a black sheath dress with deep slits on either side and a pattern that looked like overlapping feathers, combat boots, and a black jacket with the same pattern. 

"Open," she said, and I could feel her energy. It streamed off her like a crackling power plant. 

"Closed," she said, and her energy tamped up. I could still feel it, but it was like a humming power cable wrapped in insulation. 

"Open," she said. I could feel her again, pouring out energy.

"Closed," she said. I could barely feel her. 

"Now you," she said.

"I don't understand," I said. 

"Close yourself," she said. 

"Close what?" I asked.

"You've been open for weeks, bard," she said. "You're attracting attention. Your magic is powerful. Your theory is sophisticated. But you're making incredibly basic mistakes. You have to learn to close your energy off and close yourself off from all the energy outside of you. You're spilling out and attracting attention. And not everything out there is…benign."

"Wait…don't you usually just tell me to know who you are or something?"

"YOU WILL KNOW ME IN TIME!" she snapped, and for just a moment I could see a deep and timeless power behind those intense eyes. "But right now you need to learn to protect yourself because I won't keep doing it forever."

"I don't understand what to do," I said.

"Imagine a wall between you and the world. Visualize it. Give it your energy and purpose and will. Much like your other spells, it will depend on your visualization, but this one is quick. Easy. Become practiced at it. Make it second nature. You want to be able to protect yourself at a second's notice. Open yourself to be sensitive. Close to go about your mundane life or protect yourself. Open. Closed."

"Okay…" I said.

She took a step towards me. She was fierce and fearsome and terrifying in ways I'd never experienced, but I sensed a tutelary motivation behind her eyes.

"I already know you won't trust your senses. You won't believe what is happening if you can't readily explain it. I've understood your skeptical nature and accepted its…disadvantages. I chose to approach regardless. But I also know that right now, you do what works. And working with me will WORK, bard. I can assure you of that. So let me give you something that will make this a lot easier. Let me give you something that works, and then you can trust me even if you don't understand me. Three gifts. Yours no matter what you decide…

"But I think you'll be back," she finished.

I nodded. Somehow that's all I had in me. The dream had a surreal crispness to it, and I could barely speak for the sense of gravitas around the interaction.

"And stop using yourself as the energy battery for your spells," she said. "That works in a pinch, but why not avail yourself of better means if you have the time? You'll just be exhausted the entire next day. Learn to use other sources."

"What should I use?" I asked.

"In time," she said. "All in time."

And then I woke up.

The next day—and I'm still sensitive to how outlandish this feels…even writing about it two years later…even after all I've seen and experienced—I noticed three things as I went about my day. First, I no longer needed my reading glasses. At all. I could read without them. At the time I was needing +2.50 magnification to make out anything smaller than a title or heading. (In the two years since this event, reading glasses of +1.25 magnification have gone back to being helpful with small font.) In ten years my eyes had only ever slowly gotten worse, but then overnight they improved to the point that I could read without any correction. 

Second, I regained full motion of my left leg. My hip had always popped when I raised it sideways. I could get it up pretty high for a front kick, but never had that sideways range of motion—even back when I did martial arts, I had to let my instructors know that a sidekick off my left side was never going to go higher than my hip, and one off my right side would be limited by how much my left hip had to get involved in the bend. But suddenly I could move it without issue. 

Third, an old injury disappeared. There was a car accident I had been in when I was nineteen or so. I was driving a minivan (full of people, I'm chagrined to say) and I rear-ended another minivan (also full of people—it was terrible). It was probably one of the most mortifying experiences of my life, and it left me with an abdominal injury. The airbag deployed into my torso, and the explosive impact caused me internal bleeding and a life of low-grade chronic pain just below my rib cage, especially after core exertion.

That was gone. 

I've sat around and wondered about this a thousand times since. Every possible rational explanation has crossed my mind. I even wondered if I healed during the pandemic and somehow now my unconscious sort of "let me know about it," but in the WEIRDEST possible way. Maybe it was the placebo effect? Covid? I can't imagine what could make three unrelated things better, but something did. 

The next day I started to practice opening and closing. My "Yoda" friend helped me by telling me that it could involve any kind of protective metaphor that worked for me—energizing a circle, building a wall, putting on a suit of armor—and I quickly settled on Star Trek shields. My love of Star Trek is formative and deep. A quick "shields up," and I could SEE the bubble around me glow with activation and fade into transparency. Soon I realized that when I was "closed"—or when my "shields" were "up"—I could handle the world and crowds and go shopping and deal with people again. Open, and I would be sensitive to energies around me and people's "vibes" and could kind of be in tune with the ebbs and flows of magic. 

I had the ability to live a pragmatic life again, even as I explored further whatever the hell was happening to me and what new worlds I was finding the edges of. She'd taught me how to do the most basic magical protection so that I could live life again. 

There would be more dreams. (So many more dreams!) And more experiences. And eventually I would learn what was haunting me…and hunting me. But that was to come as summer wound into fall and will be another post…


Monday, January 16, 2023

Dear Fellow White People Invoking MLK

Let's get something straight my fellow history-whitewashing, tender, gentle, fragile white people: 

MLK would not have hugged this out. MLK would not appreciate All Lives Matter. MLK would not have been a big teddy bear spewing platitudes about equality that make us feel good about doing nothing other than thinking burning crosses is bad, not using the N word, and waiting for the "arc of history" to do the hard work for us.

MLK would have resisted authority. MLK would have broken unjust laws. MLK would have gotten arrested again and again. MLK would have been "no angel." MLK would not have just "obey[ed] the fucking law." MLK would have died an enemy of the state. MLK would have fucked up your commute home. MLK would have gotten in our face. MLK would have put his protests where we couldn't look away. MLK would have told us to stop talking and stop telling black people what is and isn't their own oppression. MLK would have harshly censured anyone who wanted stability and peace over equality and justice. MLK would have told anyone practicing respectability politics about that they were a bigger obstacle to justice than outright, drunk uncle, Trump loving racists. MLK would have spoken vociferously against capitalism because of its perpetual need for an underclass to labor. (Yes, THAT capitalism. The capitalism most of us think is the best, most moral system there could be and makes the world a better place and is more about human nature than that dirty communism. The capitalism upon which the star spangled awesome US of A is built.) MLK would have condemned the capitalistic gains and white supremacy born of perpetual foreign wars. MLK would have seen right through the claim that you would only listen if his protests somehow became so quiet that you couldn't hear them and didn't have to see them. MLK would have said he could not condemn violent rioters even if he himself used non-violent civil disobedience. MLK would have told us that our silence made us complicit in white supremacy every damned day. 

Because he DID do all that stuff. 

Please let's quit loving him because of the one sound bite from the "I have a Dream" speech and that love/hate quote that sounds so cuddly.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Spaghetti at the Wall (Woo)

Source: https://365witch.com
Used with permission.

[Please remember my disclaimers and rules (linked here) if you'd like to engage this post here or in any of my social media spaces.] 

I am a polytheist pagan, and I work with The Morrigan. This is my story of being called by Her (and eventually our work together).

You can go back to the last part here

Or you can go all the way back to where the journey begins in the link here

By the middle of June 2020, I was an atheist trying to understand what the fresh fuck was going on, in any way I could that wasn't a "magical awakening." And I wouldn't realize until late summer who it was, but I was dreaming about a pre-copper age Irish goddess called The Morrigan almost every night. 

These days I look back on my sardonic skepticism with a bit of amusement. I was trying SO hard to explain everything away. It took me years to realize that it didn't matter whether I was having a conversation with some complicated inner archetype of my own personality or a really REAL™ spirit, ghost, deity, undigested bit of beef, blot of mustard, crumb of cheese, or goddess of war, prophecy, magic, and death. But at the time, all I could think of was that this needed to be framed in an explicable context, and that in some way, some long-dormant part of my psyche was directly trying to get my attention in some sort of psychologically unorthodox way. I didn't really know what it was or what it wanted beyond my attention, but it was haunting my dreams night after night, sometimes twisting them into nightmares. Usually a woman in black or group of women in all black (sometimes sisters—sometimes aspects of a singular). 

"Know me!" she would scream (or they would scream in unison…or one would scream while the others looked fierce), and I would jolt awake trying to figure out what the fresh hell a woman/women in black might symbolize within the twisted labyrinth of my mind.

I was still quite the skeptic at this point. I figured I was unconsciously working something profound out. After all, we were entering the third hard month of Shelter In Place, I was spending more time alone than I ever had in my life (even as a power introvert), and I was probably doing more mental and emotional processing than I ever had. Nothing had quite happened yet that couldn't still be explained by some level of self-hypnosis, focused willpower, and the placebo effect of belief. I don't think kids can jump higher BECAUSE they're wearing Spiderman Underoos either, but if they think they can, they try just a LITTLE harder. 

And then maybe they DO jump a little higher.

This was a strange time for me. Strictly speaking, there isn't, like, a school of magic out there for awakening peeps even on the BEST of days, but this was in the full fury of Shelter In Place, so I was trying to work out almost all of this shit on my own without even being able to meet up with a local coven or some woo-woo friends. I had some zoom calls with someone I lovingly call "my Yoda," but mostly I was trying to figure out what magic could do (and what it couldn't) completely on my own. I have to admit trying a few things that would blatantly defy science as I understand it. (Of course, they never worked.) 

My rubric was always "Does it work?" That was all that mattered. If the cocktail of confirmation bias, magical thinking, and cognitive distortion was going to help me have a steamy hot date, I didn't really care if it was because I lit a red candle first. If I was able to focus on writing for five hours, I didn't care if it was "really™" the fluorite that did it. But I also wanted to strip away dogma and cultural baggage from the spiritual systems that entwine most mysticism. I was particularly averse to any kind of religious trappings. 

I was showing up in good faith for most things, but I was definitely throwing all the spaghetti I could at the wall. If something didn't stick, I wasn't going to keep trying it. In the interest of not fucking up my own ability to do magic by being such a hardcore nullifidian, I would proceed with the best faith I could. I would research spells extensively—usually finding that 15 practitioners would offer me 30 ways to do the same exact spell, so I would break it down to the things they all seemed to agree on—do all the rituals one was supposed to do (light the candles, call the directions, use the special ingredients), do all the visualizations involved, and be a good practitioner. I left a LOT behind right away or after a couple of tries. And while I don't want to be that person who sits there and says, "I'm working with an Irish Goddess, but I think astrology is bullshit" (or something), there are some things I definitely took one look at and knew weren't for me. Maybe they might offer meaningful insights to people or be written in ways that cause people to reflect on their relationship to others and the world around them, but they stand against—as in not just unproven but antithetical and mutually exclusive—what I understand about science.  

Still I ended up with a robust list that had enough on it to devote several lifetimes of work.

  • I got into Tarot a lot. Probably because there was a lot of Rorschach-inkblot interpretation to the cards, they could almost mean anything someone wanted them to. They created focus and meaning and sometimes gave me something to think about that I was avoiding.
  • I enjoyed creating magical foci like wands. I hand-carved a couple, and got into the woodworking and effort. I figured if these things helped concentration and I thought they worked to enhance a spell, they would.
  • I enjoyed casting spells that focused on me. Anything that would make a positive change within myself or that would manifest my desires by focusing my attention  on them (in a way that my unconscious would then seek out opportunities to fulfill). To me these kinds of spells seemed both more realistic and rationally plausible (as well as consequential) when compared to, say, trying to get a good parking spot or come into money.
  • I was also getting into the idea of consciousness that existed outside of the physical world. Be it unconscious manifestations (which I thought my dreams were) or some kind of spirit or entity that had some sort of ability to exist outside of a physical, living brain.
  • Charms (including crystals) became absolute fetishes to me. They were useful even though I knew they were Dumbo feathers. They really worked only if and when I thought they worked, and I had my doubts that they did  anything but help me point my attention. So I tried to use them to focus on what they intended, knowing that they were simply pointing the focus of my personal magic (focus, attention, willpower) on what they symbolized.
  • Ritual was important only if it the act of doing something by rote was feeding the higher levels of concentration and attention. Otherwise it was dogma, and I had zero interest in it.
  • I got DEEPLY into meditation, biofeedback, and self-hypnosis. Although, I use almost no traditional methods for any of these. Quiet and mindfulness tend to make me scatter MORE quickly because of my ADHD, so I focus on things like running, ecstatic dance, or Tai Chi. Strictly speaking, these are more physical/psychological than alternative/magic/woo-woo, but they definitely straddle that line.
  • My meditation work dovetails with energy work, which is a much harder application to explain within any sort of rational framework. But it was also probably the most profoundly tangible to me. Meditation made me feel like my own energy became positive. Feeling the energy of people or a room was part of everything that was happening and this whole awakening. Moving energy was something I could feel (or thought I could if you wanted to be a skeptic). I had learned Tai Chi and how to create a "ball" of energy perhaps a decade prior to these events. Suddenly this extensive system of sensing and moving energy had a new application. 

During much of this exploration, I visualized it as trying to make a mental map of a dilapidated castle or a mansion in pitch blackness where you can only feel for a minute or two each day. You couldn't see, and you couldn't draw what you felt, so it had to be completely by memory. Some of the rooms were uninhabitable. Others barely so. You had to remember where the comfortable ones were, and try to figure out how to find your way back by memory and feel. I had only the vaguest sense of the shape that the whole thing took, and my recollection of entire wings was almost certainly flawed. With limited time to explore each day, I could spend days to have a good sense of a small area, or a vague sense of a larger one, but I often had to keep going back over things I'd hastily already done to make sure I hadn't missed anything. If I could SEE, of course, I would realize that I had missed a door to a whole other room, confused a hallway with a pantry or something,  or discovered that my idea of the layout was all wrong, but being entirely limited to other senses, I only understood the broadest brushstrokes.

Mysticism is a convoluted path through cultural touchstones, and I was intent on stripping away the cultural baggage that didn't serve me. I wasn't going to mess with anyone's closed magical systems, but I didn't want to get caught up in the anachronistic trappings of an open one either. To that end I learned very quickly that what WORKED (actually "worked") had little to do with oils, wands, charms, rituals, specific words, or anything else. Those things could be useful, but only in as much as they served to focus attention onto what was happening. And what was actually happening was an act of sheer willpower. The more willpower that could be brought to the focus, the better the magic worked. If I could give it hours of concentrated attention, the magic would work almost perfectly.

There's one thing someone with ADHD hyperfocus can do, and that is give something hours of concentrated attention.

In July of 2020, I started to be able to hear myself use a different voice.

It happened the first time speaking a manifestation. I heard my own voice and it didn't sound right. It sounded deeper and resonant, and I'm sorry to use such a goofy pop-culture image, but what it made me think of was Saruman chanting to bring snow over Celebdil, Caradhras, and Fanuidhol in The Fellowship of the Rings, or perhaps even better recognized, when Gandalf calls out Bilbo for trying to keep The Ring and yells at him (not to take him as a conjurer of cheap tricks). My voice sounded deep. Resonant. It almost echoed. I paused and listened and spoke a few more things, but the moment had passed.

I hear "the voice" from time to time now, usually when my concentration and willpower and attention are absolutely laser-focused. I speak the words of what I want and it's like they draw upwards to a new echelon of power. One of the reasons I rarely use my voice when I'm casting spells—rather than just focus and concentration—is because in addition to a failed "voice" being kind of a distraction, it almost feels like TOO much for a lot of spells. Like setting a bonfire to cook a S'more or using a lightning storm to charge an iPod. 

The power that coursed through me after these spells was phenomenal. I entered alternate states of consciousness and would sometimes feel crackling energy for hours afterwards. The sheer ecstatic peak of that meditative concentration could be its own reward, but also, as I started to be able to focus harder and for longer, the spells themselves became more and more powerful. Meditation and writing I had struggled with for years started to come to me as easily as scratching my nose.

I didn't realize it, but I was exploring a very modern interpretation of magic. Some of what I was trying to do is almost word-for-word what 20th-century Chaos Magick is all about. 

I also didn't realize I was making a lot of mistakes that an early practitioner who has absolutely no guidance would make. I might have been intellectually stripping away the cultural dogma from mystic ritual, but something very simple like having a basic protection invocation between myself and the world around me was covered in the 101 class I never took.

I was still oversensitive to crowds and anyone with aggressive or choleric energy, and I could barely stand to be around another human, never mind crowds. I was having trouble just going into the grocery store to get food for the week, and I would feel overwhelmed after even an hour or two of being out. My job of watching a kid involved interacting with the parents, and it was difficult.

But there was something out there, trying very hard to get my attention. And even before I would fully know what it was, it was going to start teaching me about this new ability I was exploring…

Continue with "First Contact"

Friday, December 30, 2022

How Do You Spell, Skeptic?

 Source: https://365witch.com/
Used with permission.

[Please remember my disclaimers and rules (linked here) if you'd like to engage this post here or in any of my social media spaces.] 

I am a polytheist pagan and I work with The Morrigan. This is my story of being called by Her. 

You can go back to the last part here

Or you can go all the way back to where the journey begins in the link here

In about mid-June of 2020, it had become clear that what I was going through was best explained by a magical awakening. 

To be honest, however, I was still holding pretty hard to my skepticism at that point. Spiritual awakenings happen in every spiritual practice (even including atheism) and are mostly just a psychological phenomenon. Even when they happen spontaneously (which wasn't exactly true because in my case, it was triggered by all the death that was happening around me), they're really no more than a profound emotional experience that can lead to a deeper inner calm. A spiritual awakening doesn't necessarily have to be numinous, and it certainly doesn't have to be supernatural. Sometimes things just get knocked loose.

The problem was that a "spiritual awakening" wasn't quite covering everything I was going through, and I didn't have a lot of answers. The dreams of black birds and shrouded women were getting weirder and weirder, and my inability to handle crowds was starting to make even things like shopping acutely uncomfortable. 

I'm a pretty open-minded person, and I had plenty of alternative friends who do everything from shopping at Whole Foods for supplements to acupuncture to full practicing witches. I mostly thought their practices meant a lot to them and respected that as long as they weren't running around trying to get me to believe in it, but I didn't really spend much time thinking it might actually be true. I thought what I thought about most woo-woo systems. That they worked because the people thought they worked, and because giving them power created brain hacks and focus and feedback loops of attention. It didn't have to be supernatural to be incredibly powerful. 

Nonetheless, I was in uncharted waters, so I began to ask around for some advice.

The advice I got ran the gamut from matter-of-factly declaring, "Oh, that's just your third eye opening in your sixth chakra" to, "Have you tried casting a spell?" 

Needless to say, I was probably needing to be EASED into the whole idea of a magic awakening just a little more gently. I've never loved how appropriative white people talking about chakras has felt to me so I ran screaming from that, but even the stuff about casting spells felt just a bit too off the rails. I don't know what I thought they were going to say, but…you know…not THAT. 

At this point (almost exactly halfway through June 2020), I was not ready to "cast a spell." I was still calling it "setting an intention" and focusing my entirely-mundane-and-not-at-all-magical energy upon it. Sure, I lit a candle, but it was just to help me focus my attention. Sure, I was using my willpower to change the world around me, but I didn't try to do anything more supernatural than getting over someone who'd kind of broken my heart a month earlier. 

As I pictured the emotional tethers between us being cut by a big pair of scissors, it was like my heartache simply shut off. I felt nothing but a calm friendly affection towards them. 

Still, the altered state of consciousness remained. My body crackled with frenetic energy. My mind hummed. My heart pounded in the base of my throat. I got two hours of sleep that night, and felt like I'd taken a fistful of amphetamines. It was two days before my body calmed down enough to get a good night's sleep—two days of energy pulsing through me from that one spe—um…setting of intention.

Now there were a lot of things I could say at that moment as a skeptic…as an atheist…as an artist who deals in imagery and metaphor…and as a student of human psychology. I knew nothing had happened that was necessarily completely outside the realm of the possible. Our minds can psych us out. Our visualizations can have power. Our ritual can create resonance. 

But there was one thing I noticed, and there was no getting around it.

It had worked. 

It had WORKED!

I cared about this person, but I was no longer heartbroken. I wished them the best, but I no longer felt my chest squeeze at the thought of them. My blood pressure no longer leapt at the sight of their name. Magic….worked. Maybe because of a bunch of not-supernatural mechanisms, but it had absolutely worked. I knew, in that moment, that I had touched some frontier of human potential, and that without a doubt, I was going to have to try it again.

That summer was rife with experiences…and I'll write more of them here in future posts, but one lesson I took from this experience was that, whether or not there was some convoluted, complicated, but perfectly rational explanation for the way "magic" worked, it had power if I treated it like it had power, and it worked if I treated it like it was real. 

A lot more happened in June and July, and I'll write more about that in future posts. I grappled with how much I "believed" every day (and had a bit of an atheist crisis of "faith" if I'm being honest). I tried to fit what was happening into skeptical language and acknowledge that I wasn't actually doing anything that didn't make sense outside of a good session of visualization, self-hypnosis, and intention focus. But as the summer went on, the dreams got more and more intense, and sometimes frightening. I didn't know what was happening or where the edges of this newfound power were, but one thing was becoming clearer and clearer to me. 

Something was trying to get my attention.

Next: Spaghetti At The Wall

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Death And Awakening (Woo)

 Source: https://365witch.com/
Used with permission.
[Please remember my disclaimers and rules (linked here) if you'd like to engage this post here or in any of my social media spaces.] 

The Journey Begins in the link here.

Before I can talk about being called by The Morrigan, I have to talk a little about what happened before I could hear Her knocking at the door of my mind. Because in May of 2020, I was an atheist, but by the end of June, I at least acknowledged the possibility that there was something I didn't understand trying to get my attention. 

I had a few little woo-woo things I liked to do back then, but I didn't think they were supernatural. I had a charm necklace with talismans on it, but I considered them to be more like "reminders" and "foci" than magical. They held meaning because I gave them meaning. They worked because I wanted them to work. They were placebos and psychological cues—they were "brain hacks." I'm still not sure magic is much more than that, but I no longer attempt to talk myself out of some of its more spectacular applications. 

The spring of 2020 was the culmination of a year of death all around me. I'm old enough to start losing friends…and friends of friends. And Covid was still new, there was no vaccine, and back then it claimed a few people I knew. Death is always a part of life, but that year—starting in 2019—I went from losing one person I'd vaguely known every year or so to losing a couple every month.

I know this sounds melodramatic (and, okay, it is), but I brushed with death as well. At least I felt my clothes ruffle as it went by. To the best of anyone's knowledge, I got Covid-19 in April (the testing back then was pretty hard to come by, and I wasn't going to drive 50 miles in my condition to verify something I was 90% sure of). I probably should have gone to the hospital at one point, but I didn't want to be out hundreds or thousands for an ambulance. I remember being in bed, holding absolutely still, and barely being able to breathe—just feeling the mechanism by which Covid would kill me if it got ANY worse. I couldn't eat. I could barely drink or get to the bathroom. I recovered, but I had never been that sick in my entire life. I was down for two weeks, and absolutely debilitated for three days.

It's hard to explain how this succession of deaths affected me. After one of a friend's best friends and roommate died in their house (I had known him, but only a little), it was like every death began to resonate in a more and more physical way. I could feel them like a headache inside my forehead, running up and down my spine like shooters of chills and heat and spreading out into my extremities. 

In June of 2020, after getting the news of another death, my headache became unbearable. Right at the front of my head. It was like someone had smacked me right across the forehead with a white-hot shovel. Lances of agony pressed into my skull from the edge of my hairline to between my eyes. I have a usually-subtle birthmark there (that looks like a triangle), but it had flared a prominent crimson. I left work in mid-shift to go home and lie down. 

It's a little hard to explain what happened next. I started to sense people in my forehead. I could barely drive with my headache, but as I did, my forehead would flare when I felt people nearby. I managed to talk myself into believing that I was noticing them with regular perception (hearing their footsteps or seeing them out of the corner of my eye), and I was just getting a strange signal before my conscious mind would acknowledge them. Maybe I've spent a lifetime learning to tune out background noise or gentle movement, and my brain suddenly came up with a new way to let me know about it. But at least a couple of times, I really didn't know how that was possible. The person was behind me and moving quietly, and I just….SENSED them. And I don't know how to explain it, but the sensation was always different when I was in danger. (If someone who couldn't see me was trying to get into my lane when driving, I would feel it before they started moving.)

I drove home (though I really shouldn't have driven in my condition—I could barely see straight), crawled into bed with my forehead absolutely feeling on fire. I fell asleep, but only after hours of trying to calm down. The next morning, everything was duller and achier, but far from gone. 

Before I go on, I want to remind you that we were at the beginning of the pandemic. June 2020. Most people were still sheltering in place. Anxiety was high. I had been working 60-hour weeks as a nanny so that my clients could telecommute—and that was before I wrote a word. I was a physiological wreck from the anxiety. My shoulder and back muscles ached. My stomach was roiling whirl of acid reflux, and I was taking three different kinds of antacids. (A daily reset pill, a breakthrough pill, and those chalky tablets when the acid would flare up anyway.) I was plagued by intrusive thoughts and becoming an absolute wreck.

Two days after my headache, every symptom of anxiety shut off like a switch. 

I still remember exactly when it happened. I was crossing a bridge over the freeway in my car to go to the nearby Trader Joe's. And suddenly my stomach didn't hurt, my heartburn faded, my shoulders relaxed, and the thoughts just….stopped. A few minutes went by. An hour. Then a day. My anxiety was just….gone.

Two days after THAT, I started to notice colors and sounds and scents. Everything was vivid and bright. It was like I'd never seen a sunset or something. Eating became this incredible sensory pleasure. I'd had Covid in April, so naturally I just thought that I had finally recovered from long Covid or something. But it was like I was on a low dose of MDMA or something. And I started to notice that I couldn't really stomach junk food the way I had before. I still liked sweets, but I wasn't able to even stomach a lot of my favorite foods.

I started to have outrageous dreams (some of which I'll share here in later posts). They were visceral and vivid and filled with intense personal metaphors. Some of the dreams had imagery in them that I had never even heard of, and I had to go look these images up. I figured that I must have seen them somewhere (perhaps years before), forgotten that I knew them, and my unconscious had filed them away for dream fodder. Still Things I'd Never Even Heard Of™ started to stack up and more and more of them showed up in my dreams. (The Tree of Life, Trinity Knot, Triskeles, and Awens.) The dreams were filled with smokey, vaguely feminine figures and black-clad women—sometimes sisters, sometimes apart, sometimes twins, sometimes three, and sometimes five. They would transform into black birds sometimes and scream as they took to flight. Sometimes they would grab my face, look into my eyes and say, "See me."

My inner calm and confidence exploded during all of this. Despite whatever was going on, I felt profoundly in tune with myself, cool, and collected. I was hitting on people (something I never did before), messaging strangers on dating apps (again, I had never done that), and feeling at ease with who I was and who I wasn't. I felt comfortable in my own skin and strangely unbridled by my usual foibles.

I started to feel connected with everyone and their energy. (I have always felt this due to hypervigilance, but it became magnified.) I even began to feel the energy of crowds pulsing and shifting. I'd always been an introvert, and sensitive to lots of noise or motion competing for my attention, but I started to feel crowds in a different way. Like the ebb and flow of their energy was sometimes too much. At one point, I tried to take a hike on a popular trail and there were simply too many people for me. I could…feel them. I could feel their energy. They made my forehead hurt, and it was like the sheer force of it was pushing me back. I ended up going home.

At one point, I was on a hike, and I was out of shape from sheltering in place for so long. By the end of the first hill, I was done. Muscles screaming. Panting. Completely unable to continue. I had nothing left. I was ready to turn around and go home. But then I felt something click. I reached down into a deeper center and found some energy that I didn't even know I had. My muscles screamed. My heart pounded. My breath jagged. But it was like it was happening to someone else. I felt sort of like a passenger watching my body get driven by someone who wanted to test its limits. The next day, I should have been absolutely wrecked with muscle soreness, but I was fine. I've been working out (and sometimes overdoing it) for 25 years, and I know when I should be sore the next day—I wasn't.

I also started hearing voices. Usually in the twilight moments before falling asleep or driving in the car—places I've been hearing sounds most of my life. But these were clearer. These were distinct. I've spent my life hearing a random word or a sound that couldn't have been there. But these were whole sentences in clear voices. Sometimes they would say things I could understand like, "What would it feel like if you just stopped trying to date for a year and focused on yourself?"

And one thing that's hard to describe was just feeling…on. I just felt amped all the time. I was walking around amplified and energized. I felt like I was crackling with energy like a live wire all the time. I needed less sleep each night. I felt hyper-alert. I couldn't find the "Empty" when I was working out or writing deep into the night.

I tried to figure out what I was going through. I talked to my doctor. I talked to my therapist. I did research into long Covid (and getting over long Covid). I looked into brain tumors. I looked into Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Charles Bonnet syndrome, and more. Nothing really explained all my symptoms.

And then one day, I started working backwards. I started putting in all the symptoms first. And I got an answer that fit better than any of the illnesses or injuries I had been coming up with:

A spiritual awakening.

While this was definitely on the edge of my experience and understanding, I wasn't yet quite off the map. Spiritual awakenings—as weird as they can be for the person going through them, and as much woo-woo shit as gets attached to them—are still a documented (and explicable) psychological phenomenon. There's nothing particularly supernatural about spontaneously feeling more empathetic, aware, and calm. 

But threaded in with all those "Spiritual Awakening" Google results was one other result that kept showing up. A result that explained my forehead and my dreams even just a little bit better. A result that sent a corkscrew of tingles up my spine and made my forehead throb even as my face screwed into a bitter moue:

A magical awakening.

And NOW I was off the map.

(More to come soon)