Posts Tagged practical magic

Living Magic

I promised that I’d write about my Samhain ritual this year. It began with my last blog post here, actually, where I was pondering exactly what I’d do. Some planning began, but largely I let things happen as they would. Which led to interesting results.

Several days after writing that, I was very ill indeed. My depression attacked with full force. Medical professionals were called (and were helpful, insomuch as they could be), I battled hard to get through. And I did, for here I am.

Right in the middle of all that was the weekend before Samhain. Most people seemed to be celebrating it then, for some reason, and several journalists called to ask for chats. Honestly, this was the last thing that I wanted. But game face went on, and it was on the telephone at least. Chatting to many people from the comfort of my sofa. I could do that.

The usual questions came. ‘How did you become a Druid?’ ‘What does Halloween mean for you?’ ‘How will you be celebrating?’

The Sunday morning DJ was lovely. I was there on the phone, with a pagan friend present in the studio, and the host clearly wanted our discussion to go on for longer. The fascination in her voice was clear – she genuinely did want to know more.

I felt myself smile. I opened up, shared anecdotes of Samhains past, tried to convey some of the sense of magic that I’ve always felt at this time of year.

(I just typed ‘magic’ as ‘majic’. I kind of prefer that :D)

I spoke of how we feel the presence of our ancestors at this time of year, but not at all in a scary way. These are our family, from those we knew who’ve passed recently to relative strangers only met in ritual. But those who are there care for us enough to come along, to see how we’re doing and share some time.

I felt my spirits begin to lift.

The day came. My husband was at work on night-shifts on Samhain Eve and Samhain itself, so he spent the day asleep before heading out. I was mostly on my own, or with the dogs and cats.

I woke up feeling terrible. The black dog was gnawing at my mind, questioning everything that I had thought to do. Could I even do this at all? Who was I to share thoughts on this when I couldn’t even sort myself out? The movie ‘Practical Magic’ was on – I felt like one of the leading witches, hiding under her blankets, worn out.

I thought of my ancestors. I didn’t want to let them down – a constant challenge in the back of my mind when I’m unwell. I want to honour them in my life, my work, to do my best.

And the sense of many grandmothers were at my shoulder. Not so much saying ‘You can do this’ as gently, encouraging a child. ‘Come on, you can do it. Let’s take the dogs out. Get yourself dressed, nice and warm. Remember hat and gloves!’

I wrapped up safely and walked out into the day. The darkness receded, as my ancestors walked with me. My eyes opened and my spirit too, as I truly felt the connection to the simple, everyday places that are my hilltop home.

I was reminded of the myth of the Cailleach in the light touch of frost on my cheek. It would get a lot colder, but for now I had a beautiful blue sky, sunlight occasionally peeping from behind white clouds, and crisp grass under my feet. Golden leaves surrounded us as the pups played. I looked out and saw the mist over the houses below. Always strange to be ‘above’ that, being so high up, especially when so much of my life was spent a mile or two from the south coast.

I felt my heart lift, and the depression stayed away. I kept seeing and hearing the same phrases around me – to see clearly, to see through the dark. I kept my eyes open, and my thoughts.

And sometimes, when what could be considered an ‘omen’ or synchronicity just whaps you in the face, you can’t ignore it. I realized that I had to see clearly that day – I had an opticians appointment at lunchtime!

The high street was full of seasonal decorations. I sat in the waiting area next to a beautiful little witch with a bag shaped like a cat. I listened to those around me talk and laugh about the things they’d seen (Spiderman had come into the shop ahead of me, to get his glasses fixed after he sat on them). Everyone was in a tangibly festival mood.

Not only was the eye test fine, but my eyes had actually improved. I could see more clearly. I need to change my reading glasses, but I could see more without them. I tried not to laugh.

All day, the mix of the mundane and the magical swirled around me. I never felt alone or overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure how to prepare for the evening, though – what ritual to do. Hmm. Continue to let it come naturally?

Himself and I had a brief hour together before he left, and we saw the children on the street enjoying their monstering. Many houses were having parties, as it’s a school holiday week, and the parents were getting involved as well. The air was filled with subtle lights and woodsmoke.

I had spent much of the day baking – something I’d been unable to do before, due to mood and lack of energy. Now the house smelt of pumpkin cookies and cake.

I sat with my tea after the last small zombie had left. What to do, what to do…

And I walked the house. I started looking out over the garden, at first seeing nothing but the darkness… and then the reflected lights causing shapes to dance in the windows. The kitchen was still warm. The candles I had lit in the living room flickered, reflecting in the mirror.

The spirits of the house were there. The ancestors were there. Not just that evening, but always, should we choose to recognise or call upon them.

The lesson of the day truly was to ‘see’ – clearly and deeply. To cut through the dark, to look over the mists, to see shapes in the negative spaces. This wasn’t about casting a circle or formal words. This was about everyday practice, real and lived. Talismans, incense and special clothing may help, but I carry the magic within me, in every breath. In the words and feelings that I share. In my open heart.

I do my best. I live my practice, and my truth. Sometimes the darkness rises to overwhelm me, but I know it. I know that it can be beaten back or overcome.

I hold on to my faith – in my Self, in my ancestors, in my Gods (who were absolutely looking on and laughing as I came to each realization through the day). I share my stories, and smile as I hear the tales of others. We all move forward into the winter together, and we keep each other’s light burning to help guide us all.

What are we doing? Whatever we can.

***

A small addendum. As we enter the ‘quiet’ months, I’m working more from home, but am still definitely here. I have a Patreon, which very much keeps me going when I’m not out and about ‘doing’ a lot – there will be more stories on there every week (as well as other unique creations!), as a thankyou to those who support me. Please do join in if you’re able, as every little really does help ($1 = 60p approximately!).

Samhain blessings, my friends xx

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The Need for Grounding

I thought I’d do another couple of posts that answer queries put to me in recent weeks, on topics that are fairly important as Foundation Level Paganism. Otherwise known as What the Books SHOULD Tell You (But Usually Don’t).

Not long ago, I got asked about Grounding. A friend had been show how, as one of the introductory exercises to a novice witch-in-training – but not been given much explanation. Why, he asked, do we need to ground? What does it do?

(Don’t panic, any Muggles in the audience. I’ll explain the terminology, bear with me.)

I quite liked this, and had to smile. It sums up a lot of the ‘how to’ books out there, in that pagan Learners of any path tend to be told what to do, but not necessarily why. We find out as we bimble along, making learner mistakes and bouncing back to exercises that help (once we realize why we were taught in the first place), but I agree – I’d quite like to know why I’m doing something as I go along.

Pagans – be they witches, druids, heathens, etc – don’t just believe or feel their faith, they practise too. And practise, as we know, is continuous (to make perfect, natch). A big foundation of that work is based on energy. Not to teach your grandma to inhale ovulations, but a lot of ‘magic’ is energy manipulation… which means grounding is necessary.

Grounding is basically taking the energy you’ve worked with or raised, and settling it back down again, bringing yourself back to reality and not in a small hyperactive bouncing bubble that burns out very quickly. Imagine a puppy on Red Bull. Follow this through. The crash is not pretty, and neither is the mess left in its wake.

Energy raising is something we all do, magic or not. Runners generate a lot of energy, for example. So do actors and performers. You know the energized feeling when you’re about to go on-stage – and that same buoyancy when you step off again afterwards? Whether you enjoyed the experience or not, that’s energy.

The classic training step is to rub your hands together fast, generating enough static that you can feel it when you pull your hands apart, like electricity zapping between your palms.

Taking on too much energy, or holding onto it with no release, is bad no matter how you do it. It goes to your head quickly, and while you are capable of accomplishing a fair bit, it may not necessarily be of any quality (you know the feeling of ‘nervous energy?’). And you will quickly burn out, with a huge pressure headache and possible physical collapse.

The best exercise for raising and grounding your energy in pagan work (or at all) is to plant your feet squarely on the floor, feeling yourself fully present, there and then, solid and firm in foundation. Barefoot is good, but not essential – your toes can wiggle inside shoes just as well, to properly feel the ground beneath you.

Imagine the soil beneath you. Yes it’s there, beneath all foundations. Just work through the concrete, wood, whatever – into the earth. There may well be tree roots, insects and small creatures, brick, bone. Just feel it.

Then draw some of that energy up through your feet, into yourself. Take it gently, but let it fill you. Wiggle feet, fingers, neck, shoulders. Open your eyes. Experience it. See how the world looks now you’re actually aware of your connection to it. Remember to breathe.

When you’re ready, let that energy flow down again, through your body and out into the earth beneath your feet. Feel yourself still planted, secure and solid. Breathe. Shake your head. Let the excess go.

If you feel wobbly or ‘spaced out’ at any stage, don’t panic – you’ve just taken on some of the energy from a planet. If you’re not used to it, the sensations will confuse you, but this won’t always happen. Simply crouch or kneel down, so your feet (toes are fine) and hands (fingertips) are touching the ground. Let some of the energy discharge down. If it persists, sit or lie down and let it flow from all of you.

For  the scientific explanation of what you just did, feel free to investigate books on physics (I find quantum does it best). The idea that all energy is connected is basic, but you are simply working with that connection, sharing energy in the same manner as you share breath with those around you – people, trees, plants, animals, birds… all the same molecules.

When you hold that energy, you can use it for whatever you wish. You can move around – your feet will always be connected to the floor, after all; you’re both a conduit and a battery. Ritual, magic, sticking balloons to walls – your choice. But the need for grounding will become apparent from the first time you forget and feel the consequences. It is necessary. Don’t ever take it for granted.

And spiritually, I find it’s also nice, from time to time, to say Thank You.

The best recent source I’ve found on energy work, if you want to learm more, is from the late, lamented Isaac Bonewits: ‘Real Energy’. Or feel free to email me 🙂

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