Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Case of the Eloquent Bigot

Someone can come up with a beautiful, elegant, well-thought rationale for their bigotry that insists that all the moving parts are actually adjacent to the prejudice itself and that there is no camouflaged intolerance behind the pulsing heart of their impetus, but at the end of the day the same people who are hurt by outright, overt, naked bigotry will be the ones crying that "this hurts us," and the bigot-writer's ardent supporters will be ones slipping up and saying aloud the part they're actually probably just DYING to say. 

I'm a professional writer, and though there's a book around here somewhere that I'm going to get back to, I pay the bills blogging. I make money trying to convince people of things. I know how to make a case for something. How to emphasize this point and avoid that one. I know how to imagine how something is going to land and how to work around the rhetorical points that make me look bad. I know how to lean in on the spin and give something a coat of paint and a polish. 

We've all laughed (bitterly) when Trump said, "I don't have a racist bone in my body." We've all seen the person who claims their racism is about states' rights or that anti-choice legislation is somehow actually about 35th week pregnancy even though it targets everything after the six. We've all seen the argument that makes some case about child molestation when they really are just being transphobic bigots or claiming that sexual assault is the issue when it's not trans people sexually assaulting folks. We know that study after study after study says that people understand that anti-sex-work laws can be crafted to be harder on trafficking and exploitation, but what people really want is a reason that plays a little better at parties than for them to just come out as openly anti-sex worker.

Believe me when I tell you that a professional writer with time to revise can obfuscate their bigotry quite well. I say this as a writer. I say this as a reader. I say this as a lifetime activist who has read more elevated and genteel versions of "I'm not racist, but…" than I want to remember. These writers are the ambassadors for the version of the arguments that most people know JUUUUUUUST enough not to utter in mixed company.

So when you read some writer's manifesto, just keep that in mind. One of literally the best and brightest writing minds on the planet might using their host of skills to make sure that you don't see what's going on behind the curtain. They want you to focus on the sleight of language that will never come out and say it. But you can watch the people reacting—the people in the groups that are affected. (The ones they are assuring you they would never stand against.) You can just ask these people, you know. You don't have to assume they're okay with something just because you read something with formal diction. You can just look and see that they are hurt. (Though this may require actually doing so and not just assuming.) And while most people know that it's better to check with BIPOC rather than Trump to find out if Trump is a racist, all those big vocabulary words sometimes mean people forget that the same rules apply to everyone. White people don't get to decide who's racist—no matter how good at writing they are. 

You can also watch the allies—the people who have the writer's back. The people crowding in, in throngs and mobs and hordes. The ones who aren't quite so good at the misdirection and who slip up (often) and say the quiet part out loud. The comment sections and the conversations they think are just "their people" that begin to fill with the real sentiments. Glance at who is on the writer's side and it's piss easy to tell if maybe their diplomacy is covering up the truth.

Suddenly it will be crystal clear that all the fifty-cent words in the world won't change the fact that a marginalized group is being harmed, and the writer is doing it. 

They just used more paragraphs.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Working Woo Practitioner—The Next Steps in a Great Journey

I'm going to pause in the story of my being called by The Morrigan three years ago to talk about something with Her that's going on right NOW in my spiritual practice and life.

Recently—through dreams mostly—Herself has been calling me to change the entire shape and nature of the work I do in my day-to-day life, the devotions I take and make for her, and the way I serve my community. My physical and mental and emotional presence as I move through the world. It's this whole….package of new tasks she wants me to undertake to serve my community. Everything from holding space for grieving folks to learning Irish pagan lore to a deep proficiency in martial arts training to getting certified to do marriages. There is some question about how I'm going to do all this new work and community service and still get the rent paid, but I think most of these skills—if not all of them—can contribute in some way to an income. I also don't plan on stopping my current writing, although I'm learning the hard way that I'm not sure I can stay with it as intensely as I have before.

So I've got this whole breakdown for learning times for the new work and how I can continue to survive capitalism while developing these skills and then later serving my community in all the ways that have been coming up for me. I have this information on a spreadsheet, but I'm posting it here to kind of use y'all as an accountability buddy and to let you know how much is going on. 

Things that are going to take years:

Irish Harp (5-10 years): 

Yeah, I'm still on my bullshit with this one. (For those who've been following me for a while, I've been trying to get going on this for years. It turns out even BUYING a good Irish harp becomes a whole fucking adventure, and can quickly turn into a lesson on what NOT to do. I almost bought one right before I met Rhapsody, but I was in the middle of figuring out exactly how many strings I wanted and what makers made good instruments when I met her and got sidelined for a couple of years with everything from miscarriages to marriages to cancer to a death in my immediate circles.) I need to get back to making a steady income that does a little more than barely paying the bills before I'm willing to drop the front end cost on even a starter instrument—they are SPENDY!— but I'm kind of serious about getting back into music (I've missed having it in my life), and I really want it to be the harp. I don't know that this'll ever be a part of my "survive capitalism" strategy. I don't have any ludicrous fantasies of rocking the electric harp on stage or anything. Also, mastery takes a long long time. Harps are notoriously hard—their proficiency used to be a sign of the kind of years of study only nobility could really invest in. But it's a way to return discipline, routine, focus, and music to my life.

Krav Maga/Martial Arts (2-4 years): 

I found a Krav Maga school pretty close to where I live that incorporates jiu-jitsu and some Thai kickboxing (which sounds an awful lot like the ground fighting/striking combination I was doing in my twenties in a Jeet Kune Do school). I know martial arts are a "journey" type thing that takes a lifetime to master, and I'm not going to be "done" even in four years, but if I'm putting in 2-3 classes a week, my recollection of my late teens/early 20s is that within about 3-5 years, one can start to teach. In most schools, that teaching lets you either get free tuition and/or some pittance pay for teaching the new recruits. I signed up last month. I start now that I'm back from my road trip. Even in my introductory class, I noticed that there seems to be a lot of overlap with what I already know, so I'm thinking dedication can get me to that paid tipping point JUST a little sooner.

Fitness Training/Fitness Instruction (2 years): 

This I'm going to take at Diablo Valley College (the local community college—where I used to work for those of you who have been around long enough to remember my posts about teaching and students) with actual official structured units and a learning curriculum. There are two certificates. The first gives you enough basics to do things like run fitness classes, and the second focuses on personal training. Each is about 15 units and would only take one semester if I were going to school full time (a year for both), but given everything else I want to accomplish (including continuing to write and some vestige of a social life) within that time frame, I'm going to take four half-time semesters. I'll finish the first certificate in Spring 2024 and the second in Spring 2025.

This will probably translate into one of the most obvious things I can use to make money. I want to do physical training and physical coaching. Running classes and personal training in a way that absolutely rejects typical "weight loss" or "look hot" language in favor of just raising energy levels, feeling better, and achieving fitness related goals.

Things that are going to take months:

Woo "Facilitator" (2 years?): 

There's something I want to do, and I don't exactly know what is even involved. There's a friend doing this work now, and I want to pick her brain, but we've missed each other the last few weeks because of our respective vacations and scheduling. So I have no idea if this is going to take a couple of months or a couple of years (or a couple of weeks?) From what I can tell, it's somewhere at the intersection between energy work and craniosacral massage, and it works sort of like being a signpost for woo stuff. (There are some pedestrian and humanistic psych benefits too for the skeptics.) But just making the space and facilitating those kinds of journeys is work I want to do. Maybe it's one of those things I can DO right away, but it'll take me months or years before I can ask for more than a pittance. 

My friend isn't going to get rich doing this work, but she is able to ask a lot for an hour. 

Irish Pagan Lore (6 months x 2): 

The work I'm going to be doing is going to carry me deeper and deeper into a higher-profile community role and place me right in the middle of at least a few questions. Questions about who The Morrigan is, what She wants, and how someone who wants to work with Her can start that journey. Right now I can deflect questions like that to authorities I trust—and I can still do that for the most arcane high-speed curve balls—but I'll need to be able to handle a few of the basics on my own.

I'm taking the Morrigan Intensive—a six month rigorous course in The Morrigan lore, modern practice, priesthood, and devotionals—so that I can navigate, and perhaps speak to a few more things with comprehension. (I won't go so far as to say with "authority" although I think the end of this class is going to raise the question of priesthood. I don't know that this will necessarily turn into anything specific to help me keep the rent paid so much as simply direct the focus and direction of my work, but I think that everything else I'm about to undertake will be served by a rock-solid understanding of the lore and a deep grounding within the theology that I mean to carry into those acts of service.

This is an intensive, six-month course, and I am already planning on taking it again (although with a one or two year break in between) to maximize what I get out of both runs.

Tarot/Ogham/Divination (2 months [Tarot]/6 months [Ogham]):

This is another one I can see translating into a sidegig without a lot of difficulty. I've seen people regularly charge $50-$100 for an online reading. It's probably going to be a few more months of practice before I can really charge for this, though. I can do tarot readings already, but I'm pretty slow. I have most cards memorized and understand the way they interact in the gestalt of a reading, but I don't trust myself, and I end up looking a lot of things up that I knew but wasn't confident about. If I include doing a write-up, it would probably take me a few hours per reading right now, and what I would need to charge for that to make it worth it would be a little more than I feel comfortable asking for before I've had a lot more practice. 

Ogham is a much more complicated subject. I don't really know or understand it at all…particularly how it gets used in divination, so I'd be starting from square one with that one. Not that I need mastery of both to pursue one. But what I can probably be proficient in in a couple of months of dedicating myself to Tarot is likely to take me at least six months (longer) with Ogham.

Death Doula (7 weeks?): 

Going through the grief process with Rhapsody on the outside of the grief itself was probably one of the hardest things I've done that I had a choice about. (Cancer was certainly worse, but I couldn't exactly opt out.) But being there to hold space for grief was also deeply and profoundly rewarding work. I could really feel the difference I made from day to day. During a moment of reflection and meditation, I had a very powerful sense that this was work The Morrigan wanted me to do. This was a calling. 

All these things on this list have involved a similar sense of work I'm being called to do, but this one was particularly strange since I had never even heard of anything like it before. In fact, I was describing what it was that I wanted to do—just help people through the process of their end of life and/or families with grief—and someone said to me: "That sounds a lot like a death doula." I looked it up, and that's pretty spot on what I was envisioning. 

This is another one I'm not sure on the timing. I'm seeing everything from a three day intensive to a seven week course. I have someone I'm going to talk to, and try to get some answers about where to start a reliable and credible program.

Things that will be instant, very fast, or I'm already doing:


It doesn't take long to be able to officiate weddings. A few hours in an afternoon can get you going in California. It's more about bureaucratic paperwork than anything. Cross a few T's. Dot a few I's. Start marrying people. I don't really expect this to be a cash cow (or even a side gig), but I do know that the officiant usually gets some kind of gratuity for their time. 


Writing. Writing more. And writing more on certain topics. 

While I have no intention of stopping Writing About Writing, the kind of writing I do will probably shift focus as well. As I've mentioned, I plan on writing more about my woo-woo adventures, the things I'm learning, and how I am incorporating stuff in my life. And for those of you who have enjoyed my social justice posts in the past, I'm being tasked with getting back to that work as well. All this and of course the same writing that I've been doing on process and craft…and more.

It's an exciting time. I have spent my life being excited about how to better to build and serve community. However I need to figure out how to monetize all these acts of community service. Not because I particularly relish the idea of being a mercenary about what should be given freely. I don't mind passing the hat or using sliding scales or even giving people services they can't otherwise afford, but I will need to keep the lights on as well. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Flashback to Addiction (Woo)

[CN- Prescription drug abuse.]

There has been a significant pause in my Morrigan posts while I took some time off to help one of my partners grieve the loss of a friend and boss who was violently killed in February.

I want to remind everyone that this series of posts has some ground rules for commenting. I welcome feedback, but there are a handful of boilerplate responses that I’ve heard a million times before, already spoken to, and am really tired of. I already know I can’t "prove" any of this. I already know it sounds crazy. I already know that this could all be in my head. I find these distinctions meaningless in the face of my experience.

I also welcome you to go back and see the first steps in my journey. The most recent part is here if you just need the recap. But you can go all the way back to the beginning here.

To go forward, I first have to go back.

I have to tell you a story of my very-nearly-fatal addiction and my deeply flawed coping mechanisms. The important part of this story doesn’t require that much background or a precise timeline. But here is what you need to know.

-In late 2011, I was diagnosed with adult ADHD. My mom had dealt with the diagnosis when I was a child but refused to put me on medication at the time. I was hoping for coping mechanisms and techniques, but it was Kaiser, so instead I got a script for generic Ritalin.

-There’s a lot I could tell you about how it happened and WHY it happened—I was struggling with a difficult relationship—but the important part is that I got addicted to the ADHD meds. Nothing like a little bit of P.G. meth to liven up the life of someone who craves stimulation.

-Within only a couple of years, I had a problem. A big problem. I won’t go into everything I did, but it was bad. I did things I’m deeply ashamed of trying to chase that high including partaking of other people’s meds. I learned which ones I really liked and which ones were not that interesting. 

Amphetamine salts were my favorite.

-Then, around 2014, I stopped taking ADHD meds. I was going to therapy. I was beginning the process of extricating myself from the bad relationship. I started to move away from my addiction. It was a hard and cold-turkey process that freaked my psychiatrists out, but I wasn’t willing to taper. 

-There were hard and tempting moments (especially as a pet sitter who sometimes ended up in a house with a client’s ADHD meds), but I dealt with them.

And then one day, in 2019, my clients died while I was watching their pets. It was a couple and they both died in a boat fire off the coast of Santa Cruz. I was in the house with their animals waiting on family to arrive to start making arrangements. And I was alone in the house with probably 300 amphetamine salt pills. 

Addiction is a terrible monster. It will never die. Not completely. And it will never stop. You can overcome physical dependence, but still get cravings a month…a year…even a decade later. And just because you can make the healthy choice once, twice, ten times…twenty times…doesn’t mean that the twenty-first time that compulsion comes knocking that you will have the same willpower to resist it. It’s why addicts can’t be around people who get high on their drug of choice. It’s why they remove themselves from situations where they’re tempted. It’s why they often don’t even hang out at their old haunts.

Because they know…eventually…they’ll be stressed, weak, low-resourced and they won’t face those moments of temptation with the same willpower. And the addiction will win. Their brain has been rewired. Once they start….

I had been in that house a dozen times. Watched their cats. Noticed that one of them clearly wasn’t using their amphetamine salt prescription. Bottles everywhere in the third bedroom—dozens and dozens of them—none of them touched. Clearly nothing that would be missed if a few disappeared here or there. For months I fed the cats, scooped the boxes, slept in the house and just said “no,” whenever the thought of those pills came to mind.

I don’t say this to make excuses. I can’t justify what happened. They died, I was an emotional wreck (try sleeping dead people’s house!), and alone with those pills day after day. I did not make a good choice the twenty-first time. I knew the pills wouldn’t be missed and I took a prescription bottle absolutely filled to the brim. It's one of the most shameful things I've ever done.

I got high as fucking balls the day I came home. I sobered up and did it again a couple of days later. Then again a couple of days later. Pretty soon I was high more than I was sober. When one didn’t make me high enough, I started taking two. Sometimes I would take a second or third pill to stay high instead of coming down. I would sit for hours, locked in place, staring at porn, my heart slamming 160 beats a minute in my chest and every light on the dashboard of my brain lit up like a thousand watt flood. 

I couldn’t tell you how long this went on. Each time I sobered up, I would promise myself I was going to wait to do that again—that it needed to be a rare treat. Each time I stayed sober for less and less time between pills. Soon, I started to go about my daily business with one pill in me all the time, and take a second and third to get high. 

I remember few surrounding details about what happened next. I remember being high and wanting to stay high. I remember tapping out three pills into my hand. I remember being up for two days straight. I remember thinking I would never get enough sleep to be functional the next day, so I might as well stay up…with a little help from a three pill bump.

“You’re going to kill yourself.”

It’s a curious sensation when a voice in your head isn’t yours. You might think any thought in your head would be yours, but your internal monologue has a distinctive voice. If you’re like me, you have an ensemble cast, depending on what’s being said. My mom is my voice of prudence (and maybe sometimes criticism). My therapist is the voice that asks me what it would feel like if I were kinder to myself about something.

But a voice you’ve never heard before—even if it is clearly in your head—sounds strange. Invasive. Alien. It doesn’t sound like the voice (or voices) you’re used to, and has a dissonant quality quite like you’ve heard another person casually using your head to think. It was firm, not compassionless, but also matter-of-fact. A woman’s voice. Like a mother telling their child they’re about to hurt themselves, but being willing to let them fuck around and find out.

I put the pills back in the little brown bottle. I slid the child safety lid closed, threw them out, and took out the garbage. Then just to be sure, I fished them back OUT of the dumpster, and poured them down into the rain gutter, watching as the water dissolved dozens of pills into a shapeless white sludge. That was the last time I ever took an ADHD med. It’s been four years. 

I know how human memory works. I understand the fallibility of years old memories and how we go back and rewrite things to conform to our narratives of who we are and how we got here. I know that I probably had a salient moment of clarity and listened to myself, then years later decided to ascribe something more to it. 

I also know that I really DID almost kill myself. My heart had arrhythmias so bad I had chest pains for weeks. I spasmed uncontrollably for a month. My liver still shows signs of cirrhosis years later. But it’s healing. (Because livers regenerate if you stop kicking the crap out of them.) And my doctor pointed out that if it looked that bad three years after I’d taken my last pill, I probably came SO close to acute liver failure that there would have been nothing anyone could do.

But I also know that I recognized that voice. From the moment it answered my question of who it was and I woke with the word “Anu” in my head, I recognized the voice.

Because that was the voice I heard that night tell me I was about to kill myself. And when she started talking to me in my dreams, I knew that she had at least stopped by that night to give me one last chance to stay alive.

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)

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"