I was flicking back through my last few blog posts and they seemed to have concentrated on self empowerment a great deal.  Now that is important and I truly belief that unpacking and examining your own psyche is essential for practical magic work but I felt like it was time to give a little bit more of an insight into the nuts and bolts of Antara’s ritual work personal.

I don’t tend to use a lot of physical tools in my personal magical practice but rely more on visualisations, trance work, meditation and getting my psychology in the right place.  Any physical tools I do use will be as an extension of my visualisation work and deliberately keyed to create certain emotions and thought processes in my mind.  This works in two ways

  1. I have certain formulas, mental exercises, breathing exercises, smells, music and sights which will (if I wish) quickly get me into a ritual state of mind to work magick.
  2. I will use other smells, environments, physical objects, herbs, sigils, drumming etc. to build energy for ritual work, build up new correspondences and to use as physical triggers to execute the magickal work done internally.  That is not to say these objects don’t have their own energy which I might be using to either make the direction of my own will flow more easily or augment what I am doing.

Group work for me involve trying to attune myself as much as possible to those people I am working with and to build up shared triggers and associations. I read widely and practise lots of things but always with a view to building a core of practices, ideas and exercise I can call on with ease and confidence. 

 I also wanted to collect a small buffet of creative work by women who play by their own rules to inspire you all and me.  Some things to keep coming back to when it feels difficult to be a Women.  Some Women to fire you up and fill you up.

Firstly I found this and this, two incredible articles by the Witch of Forest Grove , truly honest and powerful mud and blood witchcraft if ever I saw it.  The rest of the site is pretty amazing too!  
Next I want to take a moment to return to and venerate Kali, the epitome of the unacceptable nature of women. I want to give a shout out to Ibis music who are creating some incredible soul stirring work on Kali and others. You can listen to the Kali album streaming live on their website here.

I only recently discovered Buffy Sainte Marie but she speaks a direct and powerful truth.

 Ruthie Foster took one of my favourite Maya Angelou poems and turned in into a divine song - this is for you dear reader, you are a Phenomenal Women, whoever you are.
Lastly another of my favourite poems by Kate Makki and a performance that has stayed with me for years.  If I ever feel I am not pretty - I watch this and remind myself why that is a good thing!
I am going through an interesting time right now exploring the "unacceptable nature of women".  Over a year ago I attempted to read Emma Restall Orr's book "kissing the hag" on the "unacceptable nature of women" and was disappointed beyond measure.  If anything it seemed agree with some of the worst stereotypes about women and did nothing as far as I could see to embrace the unacceptable nature of women - a powerful phrase which the book did not do justice to. 

Earlier this year I managed to get a copy of Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, this is a book about the true unacceptable nature of women and it is so deep and so inspiring I can only consume it in small bites so that I can really savour it, really absorb it.

Through the work I have been doing by myself and with my Ladies I have come back again to this concept of embracing the unacceptable.  I am still assimilating these lessons and I will no doubt come back to this again and again but the idea I am currently working with is simple...

Women have been allowed power on the condition that they abide by the boy's rules.  That we women are not "too emotional" and "don't cry or get upset", that we don't get too obviously old, hairy or plump, that we are not compassionate at the expense of business and a whole host of other things too numerous to mention.

Oh Really!

So I am bringing you on my journey into the unacceptable nature of women, my journey where I hope to embrace that nature and perhaps help other women embrace it to.  Because I don't think those rules work...no wait...because I don't feel those rules work!

Nothing encapsulates my current train of thinking more than these two videos.  Talking about the rage carried by women and the compassionate nature of us all which has been suppressed.

If you don't know about the TED talks then consider these your gateway drugs. 

This first one is a talk about the fierce nature of women by Chameli Ardagh and why that nature is breathtaking and amazing and to be used as a powerful force to change the world for the better.  The honest discussion of the nature of rage as experienced by Chameli is moving beyond belief.
Eve Ensler captured my heart with the Vagina Monologues many years ago.  I recently found this video and I cried with sadness and then I got to the poem at the end and I cried with joy as I realised it was not only ok to do those things, but something to be celebrated because "I am an emotional creature".

Please be aware of a trigger warning - this video contains descriptions of violence against women, and sexual violence against women, but if you can make it to the end you will find the poem that made me cry with joy!
Tune in for part two for a glorious celebration of Women's Creativity.
I am back from my holiday...it was fabulous and I am full of zip and zing to launch myself back into life, magick, work and creativity.

These last few weeks have been hectic as think I have mentioned, between the crunch of work and my Masters course had left me completely depleted.  Since the Summer began I have tried to slow my pace down, take care of myself a little better and to that end I have been consciously letting stress go, trying out Reiki and using Bach Flower Essences and lots of meditation and aromatherapy.  All good stuff - but I needed something more.

I needed to get out of the cavern and back into the light.

These things were simply relieving some of the pressure - what I really had my eye on was a relaxing holiday in Wales.  Which is where I was until Friday, deep in the heart of Snowdonia - a truly magical landscape.  From the first time I set foot in this part of the world I felt tremendously moved almost to tears by the power of the landscape.  In fact I find being nestled amongst the mountains and hills provides a perfect sense of retreat and that the peaks around me have distinct and tangible energetic personalities.  I used this time to completely relax and recharge with a mixture of vegging out in front of lots of DVDs, eating great food, soaking up amazing views and trying to breathe in a little of the energy around me to fill me up again. In fact I seemed to deliberately retreat back into myself for a few days, until I was utterly bored of it and ready to engage with the work again.  Of course being amongst such epic scenery helped a lot (despite the very soggy weather).
My creativity during this stressful period hasn't been affected (which has been part of the problem in a way).  But this week I have been able to enjoy a little writing at a more relaxed pace, knowing I have time for it.

So if you can plan for yourself a little retreat like this, even a couple of days, here are my three top tips for making it a success:

1. Head for nature - a city break just won't do it as you are aiming to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of human civilisation.  The quieter pace of country life is better suited.

2. Switch off - mobile phones, email and all real time communications.  It will all still be there when you return.

3. Take with you those thing you haven't found time for but really want to indulge in; like an amazing but challenging book, a set of guided meditations, a new tarot deck or perhaps a yoga DVD you wanted to try out. You now have some space to play with them, but don't worry if you don't get round to it either, because when you return home it is likely you'll have a renewed enthusiasm and energy for them anyway.
So it has now been a week since my Reiki session and the most interesting thing has been happening.  I have noticed some definite changes since then and am convinced that this Reiki is still quietly working away.

Not only have I become more attuned to the ebb and flow of the energy in the universe but I am becoming calmer and more relaxed.  By degrees of course (I am still not exactly a poster child for a peaceful mind) but I am finding a more gentle rhythm. I have been using aromatherapy and flower essences to mindfully continue the transition to a calmer way of life and it is certainly helping.  In fact I feel I am getting closer and closer to being ready to start a really amazing healthy eating regime to support my spirit as well.
I have recently been increasing my use of essential oil and have noticed that my supplies are running a little low.  Low is comparative really since when I was an impoverished student 3 small 10 ml bottles was an incredible amount, now less than about 10 bottles and I worry I don’t have everything I need!

Increasing my use of essential oils has been in response to my ongoing battle with stress and that has driven me to try some new oils this time around.

So what did I buy?
Lavender is an old standby that I can’t believe I went without for so long.  Balancing, comforting, anti-bacterial the uses of lavender feel absolutely endless.

Rosemaryis something I used to use a few years ago but sort of fell off my radar for a while, now feels like an excellent time to get re-acquainted with it.  It is such a great oil for clarity and mental stimulation but it also feels very strengthening which is also something I could do with right now.

The next 3 are completely new to me.

Palma Rosa – I really wasn’t sure about the scent of this when I first smelled it.  I think I was expecting it to be very rose-like, because of the name (silly I know) and whilst is most certainly floral, it isn’t really “rosy”.  I am using it on my clothes today so that all day at work I am inhaling it, contemplating it and remembering to relax and breathe. Despite my initial reaction to the scent as the day goes on it does feel very calming, with some underlying complexities in the scent which are delightful.  All in all it is really growing on me and I am experiencing a sense of relative calm at work

Lemon – Not a great deal to say about the scent; it smells of lemon.  Gorgeous citrusy and sunshine in bottle. When I am ready to experience a gentle uplifting of my spirit then I know this oil will be perfect.  I have used Orange and Grapefruit successfully in the past and whilst they both have very different scents the effect is similar.  I bought Lemon this time around to add to my armoury of citrus delights.

 Roman Chamomile – All the books say this smells a bit like apples.  Well I really didn’t get that – maybe apple pie…at a push!  Only goes to show how differently we all experience the world we share.  The scent was familiar but I just couldn’t place it. I used a little of this last night in a new practice I am trying out – which is anointing and massaging my feet prior to entering a meditative state.  The scent of Roman Chamomile made me feel very homely - like I had some baking in the oven or something. 

Obviously the other reason for picking these oils was blending.  Most of them work well with the others and with the other oils I already have and I want to get back into making my own blends again.

On a final note, I am using this opportunity to branch out into a new way of experiencing aromatherapy.  In the many years I have been using it (as an amateur) I have been concentrating on the physical properties, and the way the scents made me feel.  I would like to start thinking more about the energetic vibration of the oils and how I could be using that aspect more consciously in my practice.

I tend to buy my oils from Starchild who are very knowledgeable, fast and reliable (and have the most beautiful little shop in Glastonbury if you ever get to visit).
I have been getting pretty over-stressed recently.  This is certainly due to doing a full time demanding job and a part-time demanding Masters course; but recently I reached a level of stress which needed to be dealt with.  So I started to take some steps towards getting it under control.  Things like: increasing how much meditation I do and decreasing how much caffeine I drink. Eating more organic fruit and veg and practising letting things go.  But I have been looking for something else, something extra to help me on the path to wellness. The last time things got bad Amalthea gave me some Sacred Esoteric Healing which was very profound and incredibly helpful. I knew I needed a similar boost.  So I booked an aromatherapy massage and then one of my Ladies offered to give me a Reiki session.

Reiki is one of those things I am aware of, much like crystals and astrology, but I don't know much about. However I had heard it is great for shifting energy and so I jumped at the chance. I didn't know a huge amount about it other than the fact it involved healing with a sort of universal energy.  In fact I think it is similar to the energy I have been trying to connect with in my own healing meditations (which haven't been going so well but that is another blog post).  I have since stumbled across this related blog - How to Raise Your Vibration, which I have been finding really fascinating.

So how did the session go for me.  Amazing and frustrating, brilliantly and unexpectedly, but absolutely worth every minute.  I started with a real block, I was tired and stressed and found it monumentally hard to relax and go with it.  The longer it took to relax the more stressed I got and the more I was resisting the process.  This was all the more frustrating because I was trying *so hard* (ha ha ha!) not to block anything.  After a while though things began to loosen up and I could feel the energy start to move.  Which was a huge relief!

What did the process feel like?

It was unlike anything I had experienced before.  It was not like meditation or hypnosis.  It wasn't like shamanic journeying either.  In meditation I feel like there is nothing in the world but my consciousness which is vast and endless.  In shamanic work I have experienced the sense of travelling outside of myself.  At the peak of this experience I felt tiny, that my consciousness was incredibly small compared to awareness I had of the vastness of the universe.  I also experienced a profound sense of a shift in energy and a really staggering awareness of my heart chakra. 

At the end of the process...

Upon coming back into the present moment, I felt significant changes in my own energy and in my awareness of everything else.  It was only at this point that I realised how cut off I had become from the ebb and flow of the universe.

It felt like I really appreciating the magical universe again in a way I hadn't in ages.  In fact it reminded me a bit of the Delphiniums I photographed last year.  I remember seeing them and feeling like I had never really seen "blue" before that day.  The photograph in no way does these flowers justice!

I think that this experience has started a process, a process I now can build on.  Will I go back for more?  Absolutely!  But this has sparked an idea of something even more interesting.  I am now considering taking a course in Reiki (not right now, but when I am a little less busy).  The reason I am thinking about that...(whether or not healing is a calling for me) is that I am not sure there is a better course in energy work.  It seems like a fundamental and important way of improving my other skills and something I need to think about.
I find that at some point in my friendships with Magickal practitioners of all stripes this phrase will come up. Usually I am spending time talking with my friend about some issue or problem and it surprises me that they haven’t even tried a magickal solution.  Obviously magick isn’t appropriate for all problems (I talk about that more here) and it may not even be your first choice for a solution – Magick is hard work (harder than filling in job applications, or putting your details up on a dating website) but there are times when Magick is absolutely the best thing to do and yet it seems to far away from the minds of those who believe in it.

Why is this?

It seems to me that this is indicative of a lack of integrated thinking (something I am just as guilty of as anyone else).  When a problem comes up in our lives we run through all our options for solving it, seldom do these options include Magick.  I suggest this is because for many people they have an ordinary life and a Magickal life and the two are kept in very separate boxes.  There are excellent reasons for having those boxes – my career is traditional and conservative (although I am not) it would negatively affect my career if the two boxes got mixed up. But the boundaries we place around magick and Paganism often prevent us from realising how far that Magick can take us.

I am on a journey for the next couple of years to achieve a more balanced integration and I hope to be logging a lot of that journey in these pages.

So some of the mundane things I have successfully used magick for (either solely or as part of a group):

    Getting a job.
    Finding lost items.
    Protecting a beautiful, old tree from a spate of vandalism.
    Hiding my house from the eyes of thieves.
    Shielding my car against driving accidents.
    Using essential oils and herbal teas for clarity and energy at work and at home.

So my suggestion is thus...

Next time you need a little extra help with something, anything, even something mundane and silly like finding your car keys, just take 5 seconds to think about whether Magick might help. If you decide it would help...then USE IT!
This post might be controversial.  Because I have always believed that Magick is not a substitute for hard work and taking responsibility, and some Pagans might not like that idea!

Roots in the Asphalt
The Magickal 5 Step Plan.

1.  Work out what is it you really want your life to look like. I mean really, truly and deeply examine your motivations.  Do you want to change your job because you truly desire to be a Circus Performer or do you want to change your job because you are being bullied by your boss?  Because your true motivation makes a big difference to how you plan to make your change.  If this part of the process gets uncomfortable then that is a sign that you really, really need to do it!

2. Start immersing yourself in the culture of that new life, read books, hang out on web forums with like-minded people, make new friends who are living that life, listen to podcasts, watch TV shows, learn the jargon and imagine how you fit in with that.  This step is vital to expanding your horizons of what you think is possible and achievable. By spending time with people who are doing it then you will begin to believe you can do it too (and you probably can!). 

3. Surround yourself with a core group of people who believe in you and believe in your change.  You will have enough of your own doubts to cope with, without taking on the doubts of others. That support network will help you to build on the work in steps 1 and 2 and get you through dark days when nothing seems to be changing, or perhaps it is changing and that frightens you.

4. Take active steps to manifest your new life.  I am not suggesting quitting your job in the hope of attracting the job you want.  More that if you want to be a Banker, you need to starting making applications to Banks; if you want to be a writer, you need to be writing; if you want to find love, you need to contact and meet people.  When I was 17 I applied to the most prestigious university in the UK.  Several people told me to expect disappointment and to each person I replied "The only way to guarantee failure is if I don't even try". The thing is this is a scary step and some people find more comfort in staying where they are than risking failure.  Sitting on the sofa and dreaming about travelling the world involves no risk...and it takes you nowhere.  You might fail, the first, second or even third time, but what if you could have succeeded.  I surprised everyone by getting a place at that university, and if I hadn't, I could have applied again.

5. Do your Magick ritual and make sure it is a good one!

"Hey Antara, this is a cheat.  You aren't really telling us how to use Magick to change our lives.  Only point 5 is about *Magick* and that isn't helpful."

Oh really?

Magick runs through our whole lives and no amount of spells or rituals or hand waving will change your life if you don't put the groundwork in.  In this blog there are already some technical tips on doing Magick rituals that work and there will be more.  But none of that means anything if you don't follow steps 1-4 above.  If you aren't ready for change then nothing will change your life for you.  Magick isn't something we keep in a special sandalwood box and get out once a month, it is a part of everything you are.  Being effective in life and being great at Magick are simply two sides of the same coin. 

Magick is damn hard work and requires discipline, courage and effort.  If you aren't putting discipline, courage and effort into the rest of your life then you won't have it for Magick.