The Ladies all met up this weekend for some shamanic journey work.  We are soon to be entering a phase where power animals, totem animals and spirit guides may be particularly important and useful. Only some of us already had met their power animals, and I wasn't one of them and so in preparation for the months ahead we wanted to make sure everyone had had the chance to find their particular power animal. We planned to travel down to the Lower Realms through a recent portal we have done a tiny bit of work with before.

Although I have done a little shamanic work, a long time ago I had never experienced a full trip in to the lower realms to meet with power animals and it was a very powerful journey.  I do find drumming is a very easy way to start altering your conscious state and this session was no exception. However, in the past, the drum beat has been a fairly slow steady rhythm which lulls the senses.  This was very different.  Fast drumming is used to accompany the trip into the other world and back out again and this created a completely different sense of consciousness.  I do not remember the slow steady drumming which happened whilst we were in the lower realm but I do have a vivid and urgent memory of the drum beat on the journey in and out.  It was fast, and almost frantic and it was so easy to envisage myself travelling down through the earth, roots, worms and stones in both directions of the journey as a result.

I have long thought that (despite some declarations to the contrary) what hypnotherapists do is NOT shamanic journey-work.  Certainly my experience of this trip into the lower realms was a very different experience to the hypnotherapy I have undergone throughout the years. This was a far more visceral experience than the hypnosis I have experienced, with a far greater connectivity between body and mind whilst in the lower realm. I would certainly be open to using this technique again and going on more journeys in this way.

Now for the nitty gritty... 

Was I tempted stay in the Lower Realm when the call came to return? 

Yes, but I have a pretty strong will and it isn't the first time I have had to tell someone down there that I cannot stay with them. My advice would always be stand firm and make a clear decision.  This type of work involves an altered state of consciousness it does not mean that you lose your ability to make decisions.

Was I surprised by my power animal?

Yes. There was no elegant deer, regal eagle or powerful tiger for me.  I met a black hare with an American accent who insisted on referring to me as "Kiddo".

Was I disappointed by my power animal?

Strangely no. I hope that means it worked!
I just returned from a fantastic holiday with 23 other people.  Many of them are close friends, in some cases friends of over 10 years standing.  As far as I know I am the only pagan amongst them.  What binds us together is very different from paganism but nevertheless powerful.

It took me a couple of days to adjust to the energy of the group - not least because I was sharing a living space with 11 other people which is not my normal state.  After those two days I adjusted completely to the energy and had the most amazing time.  Because much of the holiday was spent just being in each other's company, pottering around, chatting, connecting, cooking together or simply being in the same room quietly reading; by the end of the holiday there is a really strong and tangible sense of connection between everyone (even people who may not have know each other so well at the start).  Usually when we humans meet up with other people it is to do "something".  It is normally only family, partners and maybe flatmates with whom we do "nothing".  But doing nothing can create some of the strongest bonds there are. 

I am still in the grip of that intense connected headspace; even though I have been back at home for some time now.  I am desperately trying to switch it off because it is not the right energetic space in which I normally live my life and I am feeling bone tired and cannot concentrate on any of my usual projects - which I want to pick up and run with since I have left them fallow for a week.  I expect that when I emerge from this odd space I am currently in then I shall have been refreshed for all my other projects but for now I am trying to wind down one part of my mind and gear up another...and that is not as easy as it sounds.  At least I can at least see that this is what is happening rather than snapping at everyone around me and/or beating myself up for being lazy. 

I am sorting of hoping that by posting here I can be shifting myself back into the desired energetic space.
Following on from Tuesday's post.

My name is Antara.  That isn’t my only name and certainly isn’t the name by which I am known.  But I am going through a process of exploring what it would mean to be more open about who I am.

Because I am taking baby steps I am not yet ready to put my other name on this site.  Nor will I be marching into the office, standing in the middle of the open plan room and announcing I am a Pagan and Witch.  Yes that would be honest, it would also make everyone feel uncomfortable and I am not up for being the source of other people’s unnecessary discomfort. However I have wanted to start putting videos up on the website.  Little video diaries, possibly workshops and other interesting things.  I haven’t done so because that would mean putting my face up here and I have been paranoid  this would mean someone with enough technical ability could use that to “hunt me down and out me”.  Well, perhaps it is time to open the door a little crack.

Baby steps means that this video is only accessible via a password link on Vimeo.

So if you just go to the link type the password below and press play you’ll get to see my face…one more step to authentically living who I really am.

Password:  Authent1cm3

Eventually I'll work out a better way of getting these up here.

I had two blog posts half written about various things, then a walk at lunchtime totally changed all that – and changed the day from a rotten one into a good one. I pottered down to the canal for fresh air and the scent of elderflower blossom and on the way listened to an audio book called the 7 Habits of Highly Effective people by Dr. Stephen Covey.  I had thought this book might be useful for work as I am doing a management and leadership section at the moment.  I wondered if the book might have other applications and a mere 40 minutes into chapter one and this blog post was birthed.

The author tells a story about a period in his life when he and his wife had a hard time with one of their sons.  The boy was not very athletic, not very academic and people often seemed to laugh at him.  The author and his wife wanted to help the boy achieve more and not get teased all the time and so they really tried to help him practice, gave him lots of positive encouragement and coaching and defended him when people laughed at him.  Sadly nothing seemed to help.  The author says he had a revelation when he realised that actually he and his wife were both giving their son this special treatment because on some level they believed him to be inadequate.  This message of inadequacy was probably being communicated through the special treatment and as such the son was getting underlying negative messages.  When they changed their view of their son as being great, just the way he was, then he completely blossomed and all his potential came to fruition. The point of the story is that it isn’t enough to look at the world around you, you have to scrutinise the lens through which you view the world. Because even if you are going through all the right motions, if there is something wrong in your heart then nothing will change for the better.  We need to question... What are my hidden values, beliefs, assumptions and perspectives? How do they impact what I do without me even realising it?

Hidden beliefs, values and perspectives are essential to successful magick (or perhaps that should be they result in unsuccessful magick).  You may be working for one thing in your magickal rituals but the outcome is completely different because it was not what you truly wanted, you just didn’t realise that.  I have an excellent mundane example of this.  I spent a year learning how to drive but I was really worried about taking a test – so worried it was affecting my ability to drive and although I could in fact drive adequately I was getting worse and worse.  I went for some really good hypnotherapy and then in the middle of one session I had a realisation…

"I actually don’t want to pass my test, passing my test means driving around, on my own, in a non-dual control car.  I would be totally responsible for the lives of others and that terrifies me." 

Once I had uncovered that understanding, I started working on my perception and within a very short period of time I passed my test. But had I done a spot of magick to help me pass my test instead of uncovering that nasty little perception then I doubt that it would have worked.

Incidentally all credit to my hypnotherapist and friend who has been saying something similar about magic for years.

Fast forward to Project Antara…I am taking some tentative steps to put myself out into the world in the hope that one day I will make my living through my creativity. What is the lens through which I am viewing achievement of that goal?  Well there are a few dirty, little opinions I am finding within myself.  Here they are for the world to see:

  1. I am worried people (including current work colleagues) will judge me harshly if they find out what my beliefs are.  As a result I am not being very honest about who I really am, if I am not honest about who I really am then this will impact my ability to authentically fulfil my dreams because I cannot be fully committed to pursuing this path openly and yet at the same time be trying to hide.
  2. I believe I don’t have the right to earn a decent amount of money from something I enjoy.
  3. I believe I don’t have the right to earn a decent amount of money from something based in spirituality.
  4. I believe that if I did earn money from creative and spiritual pursuits that it should be a small/negligable amount, because a really big amount would be obscene and people would accuse me of being a snake-oil salesmen (and I would worry that they might be right about that).
That is a lot of stuff holding me back right there isn’t it!  Can you imagine what would happened if I tried to do some magick at this point in time (before sorting out all these things) to bring my new career into being.

So the importance of understanding the lens through which you view the world is key to successful magick.  I am off now to work on some of the above…I may be some time.

You know it is interesting to me how more and more of the things I am studying in relation to management seem so important for magick.  Almost as if effective organisation is a universal principle or something ;)

Stay tuned tomorrow for what I plan to do to tackle number 1.

This is a blog by people who believe that magick is real.  Many excellent people have written about what magick is and one day I may mention them and posit my own little theories but at the moment I am more interested into exploring the *how* of Magick rather than the *what*.

My view is that effective magic has two broad components.  Technique and Trappings.  There are a variety of Techniques which work regardless of tradition, paradigm or genre.  I'll refer to them again and again in this blog and other writings - probably as the basics.  These are the elements that I always put in my rituals where all else is flexible.  The Techniques have an element of the personal as what I find an easy Technique may seem hard to someone else, what I find impossible someone else may find easy.  For example although I often meditate I find I need an active meditation, focussing on a series of steps or an intent or a journey.  If I try a more zen approach of the empty mind it just never works for me.  So meditation is one of a number of Techniques which are practised in many different ways.

Trappings are the traditions, myths, legends, paradigms or genres that are attached to the techniques.  A simple example for me would be the many and manifold lists of correspondences that you find on pagan websites.  I'll never write any such comprehensive list (although my personal correspondences will pop up in rituals I post) because to me they are Trappings and Trappings are personal. Broader Trappings are traditions such as Wicca (Wicca is also a religion but I am using it here in the context only of a magical path), Thelema, Norse mythology.  These are equally as important as the techniques.  For me Trappings are the missing link between me and the magickal undertow of the universe - in the same way computer code is the language that gets from me typing these words (technique) to sending them out into the universe for people to read. No amount of Technique is going to get me magickal results without the Trappings to lift my mind into the ritual headspace where I can actually interact with the universe.  That would be like typing on a keyboard when the computer is not switched on. Likewise no amount of Trappings will get me magickal results without the Techniques behind it - i.e. all the computer code in the world won't make this blog appear if I don't tap these keys.

This view obviously owes much to Chaos Theory but I believe that Chaos Theory often forgets about a very important aspect of the Trappings - and that is joy and delight.  It may be *enough* to convince yourself to believe in your paradigm to make it work - but it won't make my spirit sing and my heart swell in my chest.  I happen to think I do my best work when I am spiritually inspired by the Gods and Goddess I choose to work with, or when I use myths and legends dear to my heart and bound up closely with my own psychology.

Of course the line between Technique and Trappings is gleefully blurred and I suspect there is a lot of bleed over between the two on that line.  But this is only the first of several posts I plan to make in the future exploring this idea - which is still in its infancy.
Of the many books and techniques I have read over the years one of the themes which recurs is Affirmation.  The idea of making a positive statement to change how you feel or think about something.  Bear with me...this does get magickal.

I have found when I have used this technique (in various forms) that the one problem is that it never seems to last.  I am sure that on a sub-conscious level it makes a difference but even if I do 20 mins of yoga and pledge to maintain that sense of calm, serenity throughout the day it doesn't usually stay.  All manner of things can disrupt that moment of grace and drive it away; perhaps I run late for work, get a deadline unexpectedly brought forward, encounter some sexism, realise I have library fines.  Good things can disrupt those intentions as well; I'll get lost in a book, enjoy an amazing dinner with a friend or watch a favourite TV series. Suddenly the intention is gone from my mind.

What I need is a way of calling that Affirmation, or intention or sense of serenity back to my conscious mind once something mundane, or delightful or stressful has ejected it. One of the current goals in my personal practice is develop a better joined up thinking about magic and the rest of my life.  To be able to bring a spirit of magickal mindfulness to work and everywhere else.  Being able to recall and re-invoke magickal affirmations discreetly, consistently and effectively would be great.  Enter triggers (the good sort this time, not the bad).  When I make my Affirmation, set my magickal intent or complete my yoga I can have a symbol, a token or talisman to excite my senses which I can come back to throughout the day to remind me of that moment.  Simple yet effective.

If I am at home, I'll light a particular incense.  Sometimes I'll forget about the incense but when I do remember it again (perhaps after re-entering a room after fetching a drink) then at the moment I notice the incense again, I will deliberately call to mind that earlier practice and reinforce it.  The moment of noticing is the trigger to remind you to replay the Affirmation or magickal moment. So the item or token must be something which I will notice again and again at little moments throughout the day. That way I spend the day re-affirming my intention again and again.  I have found this is very effective for both doing background magickal practices, sending absent healing or re-affirming statements and concepts I am trying to abide by.

Some ideas for such discreet tokens of remembrance:

1. Jewelry, that you do not normally wear daily, so you "notice" it when you see it. I particularly like anything that jingles and jangles as tinkling silvery noises playing on my awareness is a very magical way to remind yourself of anything.
2. Clothing or a particular colour which is unusual to you.  I am using red a lot at the moment for manifesting things. You can't fail to notice bright red, sunshine yellow, lime green or magenta.  These are colours made to stand out!
3. A bunch of flowers, are discreet on a desk at work, yet the smell will remind you as will the sight of them.  They are unusual on your desk, unusual enough to remind you why they are there, but not odd!
4. Perfume/essential oils/incense -we do get used to smells after a while and cannot smell them anymore.  But it takes a while for this to happen and before that occurs it is quite hard to tune out smells.
5. Candles (probably not appropriate for work or if you are on the move) are fantastic as not only is your eye drawn back again and again to the light, but also to the slight movement generated by the flame itself. Equally anything that catches the light will work nicely, as a sudden flash or flicker attracts your attention.
6. Photographs or Pictures placed somewhere obvious.  This is my least favourite way of using this practice as I find it all to easy to tune out background clutter after a while. But you may find your eye being constantly drawn back to an amazing picture.

I would shy away from alarms, since I always find them so jarring to my mind and sense of wellbeing; and the idea above is not to be forced into remembering, but gently led there as if by accident.  I have no wish to blend the sense of annoyance and interruption an alarm generates with the magickal manifestation I am attempting - but someone else may find that very effective.

The key though, is not to over-use the particular trigger you pick. If it is over-used it will become a part of the background and no longer prompt you to notice it. It is the sudden moment of noticing which reminds you to redo the working so that must be maintained and kept fresh.

So as I was working on Project Antara this afternoon my mind turned to ritual preferences.  Over the years I have tried lots of things I have definite preferences for things I want in the rituals I attend.  I am not bossy enough to insist on every single ritual I attend falling into line with these wants and frankly that would be dull, variety is the spice of life.  But I think I have some preferred ways of getting me in the mood so to speak.

I have mentioned on this blog before about a "ritual head space" and what I really mean by that is the state of alternate consciousness where you can feel the energy in a ritual flowing about you, there is a rhythm to the universe which you hook into and it is as if you are vibrating in alignment with everything, everywhere.  That alignment then allows me to do magick just like rowing a boat down river along with the current.  But being a fickle and earthly creature how I get there and whether I can maintain it is based on lots of things outside my own willpower.

So this is my version of a sort of magical foreplay to get me in the mood.

1. Ritual clothing - I need to change into something special to shed myself of the associations of everyday work I am carrying in my work-a-day clothing.

2. No Scripts - I almost never achieve this one, unless I am working on my solitary ritual.  I'll be honest as well and admit that sometimes I need a script as much as the next person - being too lazy or busy to memorise what I need/ought to.  But the constant rustling bits of paper (including by me) is a real distraction for me and even when I use a script I try to be discreet.

3. One or all of music, candles and incense - all of these make it very easy for me to move into my ritual headspaces.

4. People who don't seem to take it seriously - I don't expect everyone to be sombre, ceremonial ritualists never speaking except to intone their Latin incantations. But I would prefer that everyone who goes to a ritual with me at least pretends they are taking the rite and magic seriously and acts respectfully.  A few laughs is fine, and important to alleviate nerves and be welcoming to new comers.  But making witty quips throughout a ritual - really not ok by me! Especially when people are interrupting quarter callers etc. to make their jokes.

Hah! I doubt anyone will want to get into a circle again with me now!
I am a big believer in the value of ritual; from huge festivities with weeks of preparation beforehand to the small and personal rituals which can appear as little more than habits.

They both have their place but have very different effects on our lives. So today I wanted to write about the small personal rituals and what they do for me.  My Little Rituals are definitely not habits. They are deliberately mindful, where my habits are quite the opposite. Little Rituals allow me to live my life in a conscious way, making sure that I don't sleepwalk through my time on earth.  They help me connect in with myself and my life on a regular basis to make sure I am really engaging with the world.

Sometimes my rituals are very short term and changeable, some of them are things I have been doing for ages but all of them root my life and affirm my path. Some of them are magical, most of them are actually mundane, allowing me to practice mindfulness anywhere and bring a little magic into everyday grind.  Because everyone's had a daily grind that they could probably do with injecting with a little sparkle.  At the moment Little Rituals are to remind me that no matter how much time my current career is taking up, there are other things that are equally as important - such as writing this blog!

Some of my current Little Rituals:

1. Lighting candles and incense whenever I settle down to write at home (for work or any other projects).
2. Wearing my silver, purple and blue sparkly bangles when I am not at work.
3. Checking my vegetable patch every morning.
4. Reading for at least 30 mins every night before bed.

What are your little rituals that keep your day and week ticking over?
I am not going to get into the different ethical situations at this point.  Many people have done great work on this and whilst I might add to their thoughts later on, this is not the post for that.  This post is about when I believe the use of magic is at its most successful or has the biggest impact. Magic is just one of the many tools and skills at my disposal and there are things which magic is good at and things which it is not. 

So in my experience magic is a particularly well suited tool for the following things:

1. Magic To Change A Chance Encounter - Any situation where the success of a venture can be influenced by random chance.  Your manuscript makes it to the top of a publisher's slush pile, the right person stumbles across your blog post.  A ha! I hear you say - "so I can use this to win the lottery".  Or if you came here by accidents you might be thinking,  "Pah - superstitious clap trap. If that is true why don't people win the lottery all the time using magic".  Well maybe you could win the lottery like that and maybe some of the lottery winners are using magic, you never know.  But it seems to me that there are so many people out there putting huge amounts of emotional energy, prayers, wishes (all magic albeit not consciously so) into winning the lottery that trying to use magic to make your number come up is hardly the path of least resistance, it is probably harder than almost any other way of getting enough money to live on - which begs the question why bother. The more variables in a situation the better the chance that magic will have to tweak one of them and change the outcome and lotteries really don't have that many variables.

2. Magic To Augment What You Have - Those time where you need a little nudge to accomplish something which is already within your power.  If you are a pretty good artist, you already have skills, some knowledge of the craft - a little nudge from magic and you could be producing really amazing art, or getting rid of your writer's block or even controlling your nerves enough to give a great presentation at work. I definitely use magic to make myself even more awesome at the things I enjoy doing and want to be better at. This type of magic is almost certainly working on a subconscious level more than anything else.

3. Magic To Work With Other Magic - This covers any and all interactions with other magical, psychic or supernatural phenomena.  Want to visit the underworld, commune with the spirits, protect your aura then magic is your only tool at that point. Funnily enough it works incredibly well (like speaking French in France) and the more you do it the better your magical senses will get.

There are obviously other ways of using magic such as influencing other people...but these tend to fall into the unethical category so I'll leave those for another day.

Just a quick note about my throw away comment "path of least resistance" Many people have discussed and written about the idea that magic takes the path of least resistance. This is the concept that magic will make things travel in the right direction if you have already prepared the way -  so if you want to be a great artist, then buy some paint and actually paint things.     It also encapsulates the idea I mention in point 1 above that magic will work best if it is not competing against a lot of other obstacles and energies...including the mess of contradictions and beliefs in your/my own subconsciousness.
So do I use magic...absolutely. Do I pick and choose my situations so my magic has maximum effect...absolutely.