Friday, December 30, 2022

How Do You Spell, Skeptic?

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

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