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Category Archives: Astral, Crack, Hypnosis & Inner Work

Lights in the Dark

Once upon a time I wrote about how accessing the astral is a bit like punching a hole through a membrane. In this metaphor, I had created a scene where the Unseen and all of its trappings are on one side of a very thick membrane, while we all live in the Seen on the other side of the membrane. And when we humans go to try and talk with any beings that exist in the Unseen, we are essentially playing a drawn out game of charades with this membrane in between us and those we’re hoping to speak to. In the case of astral travel, you’re essentially puncturing a hole into the membrane so that you can begin to access the Unseen more readily. Sometimes this hole is gigantic and easy to pass through, sometimes it’s more like turning the membrane into something that is permeable, but not removing it entirely.

All of these metaphors are still accurate, but they are all coming from the perspective of a human trying to get to the Unseen. That begs to ask–what about the gods who are trying to reach us through this membrane? What is it like for them?

While it’s entirely in the realm of UPG, it’s my belief that the gods are also living inside of a membrane just like we are. They live in whatever place that they happen to reside (for us Kemetics, that’s the Duat), and they go about their daily lives just as we do. They may be aware of the membrane that separates us from them, but they may or may not pay a lot of attention to whatever is going on on the other side. To draw a more physical parallel–I’m aware of Mexico being to the south of where I live. My state even shares a border with this country. But I have little to no in-depth understanding or knowledge of what is going on there–political or otherwise. Just because two planes, countries, or civilizations are close to one another doesn’t mean that they are actively paying attention to what is going on outside of their immediate sphere of influence.

There are times when I think the gods aren’t paying a lot of attention to us (whether that be humanity as a whole, a specific group of people such as religious practitioners, or earth in general). This is especially true after the religions and civilizations that pre-date us fell. I imagine that the gods paid a fair amount of attention to at least some of the goings on here on earth, but after their devotees dwindled down to nothing, they quit paying attention to us. It’s like watching a tv that is showing nothing but static–how long before you get bored and do something else?

That, of course, isn’t to say that all of the gods quit paying attention, but I think many of them started to pay less attention to what was going on with us. As such, we’ve got a lot of gods who don’t know a whole lot about the current state of affairs in our world. Much like astral travelers having a learning curve in regards to acclimating to whatever plane they’ve landed in, the gods are likely experiencing some level of learning curve with us.

Unlike us, the gods can’t punch a hole in the membrane and start walking around here on earth. They can do that in the less-physical layers of our existence, such as dream states or things like that. But to take on a physical form and start walking around like they’re one of us? Not likely to happen. So if the gods can’t break through the membrane in the same way that we can for them, how are they ever supposed to learn about how earth has changed in the past 839586 years?

I ended in up a conversation about this with O a couple of years ago. I didn’t really care about how the gods got their information at the time, but he was insistent on me listening to him and understanding the role that devotees can play in a god’s reality. The theory I’m about to posit to you is what he told me.

We all have a perceived reality of what kind of world we live in. We have a perceived reality of how others live, and all of the biases that can come along with both of these things. In many ways, a lot of us tend to have a small circle of people that we frequent and discuss things with. And this circle tends to form a basis of our reality.

When the circle of influence is small, the reality stays small with it. You don’t know what you don’t know. But if you push yourself to widen your circle of influence so that your horizons are broadened, you may find that your reality shifts with it. The more views and information you take in, the wider your understanding tends to become, and your perceived reality of the world and its workings will shift with it.

The gods can’t punch a hole in the membrane that separates them from us. But they can utilize us, the humans and devotees that live in this world, to widen their circle of influence and broaden their horizons. By interacting with humans across the globe, or from different backgrounds, they can begin to get a better understanding of how our world works, and what our world (and therefore it’s residents) needs in order to improve. In many ways, we can become a vessel for the gods, we can help them to better understand this world, and help widen their perceived reality.

In the imagery O showed me (because there is always imagery), our world was nothing but a big vat of darkness. You don’t know what you don’t know, and when you don’t know much, it can seem very dark. But then these tiny little lights started to pop up in this darkness. Each light was a devotee that had dedicated time, space, or something else to the god in question. The more devotees the god had, the lighter the world got, and as such, the more their understanding of the world deepened.

I recently talked about how we can create stability for the gods so that they can better exist within our plane. I feel as though this takes that stability even further, because our perceived reality of this world influences the reality that the gods have of our world. They learn about this place through us both directly (such as through conversations with us, through listening through our ears, etc.) and indirectly (by being given stable places to manifest, it’s possible that non-physical entities can manifest in a house and soak up information that is nearby, or listen in on conversations, etc.), and as such, I began to wonder what sorts of messages I was sending to my gods when I talked to them. Was I telling them important stuff that would help their understanding? Was I bringing up important information about the state of not just my life, but the world around me? Was I doing enough to explain to them more complex or nuanced situations that are occurring so that they can have a better grasp of what is going on around me?

If you found out that your reality directly influences the gods’ reality, and that your conversations with them help to round out their understanding of our world, what would you change? Would you talk about different things? Would you include more peripheral information to widen their understanding? Would you include topics that you didn’t consider originally?

What do you think about the concept of a god’s reality being influenced by our reality? Do you like the idea of the gods utilizing devotees to learn about our world, or do you find the concept to be too much pressure? Do you feel that there are other ways that non-physical beings learn about our world?

 

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The Importance of Stability

I feel that all of my astral travel has really given me an appreciation for some of the difficulties that gods and spirits probably face when trying to interface with our world:

  • “I’ve finally managed to get to the other side, and now I can’t get anyone there to pay attention to me. How do I talk to people?”
  • “I figured out how these beings communicate, but I can’t get any of them to listen to me. What am I supposed to do?”
  • “Why am I in this house, this is not where I intended on showing up.”
  • “Oh where did all of the doors in this house go? Why did all of the furniture move?”
  • “What the hell is that? And will it hurt me if I touch it?”

I feel like all of these statements could easily be uttered by a god trying to get some human to listen to them, and they are all statements that have fallen out of my mouth at least a few times while trying to travel. I’m sure that interfacing with foreign planes is probably not as challenging for some non-physical beings, as they have more power and practice than I do, but there will always be challenges when you’re trying to interact with beings on a foreign plane.

As I’ve worked to get better at my astral travel (and with communicating with my menz and gods over here), I’ve found that there seems to be something that helps everyone get on a little bit better, and that is stability. I mentioned in my post about working with unknown beings that stability can be useful for establishing a solid connection with non-physical beings. However, I didn’t go too terribly in-depth on what I meant by stability, or how to incorporate it into your practice. Today, I’d like to talk about two kinds of stability–stability that we can create for non-physical beings here, and how we can incorporate stability in astral travel to better our success rates while traveling.

Stability While Traveling

I feel that it’s better to start with stability as it applies to astral travel, because I think that it helps to round out the picture about how stability here can benefit beings that don’t really live here. You see, when you’re traveling in the astral, you’re effectively doing what the gods do with us: you’re taking a non-physical portion of your body or Self, and taking that portion to places that you don’t (typically) fully live in. While it’s true that I have a form that lives with my astral household 24/7, the human portion of myself doesn’t really live there 24/7. That portion comes and goes as I split my focus between here and There. And while the gods may indirectly always reside in our physical layer of earth, on the by and large, they aren’t living here fully, either (which is why Open statues are helpful, which I’ll cover in another post).

While I don’t pretend that my experiences are the same sort of experiences that all travelers have, I wouldn’t be surprised if my experiences aren’t entirely unique, either. And with that being said, my experiences have shown me that the process of getting from here to There can be convoluted. Sometimes it’s really simple, and I look inside, and I am instantly there and ready to move around. But most days, there is a sort of acclimation process that occurs as I move from here to There. For those who have never traveled, imagine waking up in the dead of night after having taken some medication. Someone flicks the light on, and your eyes haven’t fully adjusted to everything. You can’t really see well, you’re not very steady on your feet. You’re not sure where anything else because your brain is still fuzzy.

There are days when “waking up” Over There feels similarly.

And when you wake up in the middle of the night and need to move quickly, part of the reason you’re able to move quickly at all is probably because you know where you’re at. You know that you’re in your bedroom, and you subconsciously have an idea where the furniture is, and where to move or not move, etc. Your pre-existing knowledge of your house gives you the stability to know where to go, even when your brain isn’t running on all cylinders.

Now imagine that in an astral setting. You finally are able to connect in, but you’re not sure where you are or who is around. Your hearing is doing pretty poorly, so even when your bestie reaches out to talk to you, you don’t necessarily hear it or register it. The house shifted while you were gone, and you’re not sure where any of the furniture is, or where you’re supposed to go. You may not even be certain which room you fell into when you woke up.

You have no stability to know where to go or what to do.

Stability is key in these examples for being able to hit the ground running. In my household, we know that I have certain things that need to be done in order to visit regularly, and all of these things lead to more stability for me as a traveler. For those who might be interested in incorporating some of these ideas into their astral households, here are some of the things we keep in mind:

  • Keep some of your housing the same. The rooms that I get put into always have beds and doorways in similar or the same locations. That way, I always know which way to head to reach a door. Similarly, keeping the furniture to a minimum can be helpful.
  • Keep walls and/or space to a minimum. Whenever I’m having issues with connecting, we will remove walls, or shrink the size of the room that I’m in. That way, I don’t have to try and process as much information when I come into the room. Just like with video games, I can usually only process so much of a given space at once, and if the space is smaller, it’s much easier to move around because I can process the entire space in one go.
  • Keep a schedule, and utilize a partner. One of the best ways that I’ve found to make porting into the astral easier is to keep to a schedule. If I tell my menz that I’m going to be arriving at XYZ time in XYZ location, they know to keep an eye out for me and can assist in helping me to acclimate to the location that I’m shifting into. This also helps because you’ll know exactly where you’re going, and you won’t have to utilize as much energy or time trying to figure out your surroundings.
  • Get physical. I’ve found that when I’m having a particularly hard time hearing, seeing, or just being in an astral space, that touching someone’s face, or holding something and focusing on the physical sensations that I get can help to ground me into my body well enough that I can start to move better.

Stability for the Unseen

As you might have noticed, most of these things involve giving the person who is traveling some predictability in where they are going or what they will be doing. And when we are trying to facilitate stability for our non-physical compatriots, you’re essentially trying to do the same for them. Obviously, some of the situations listed above don’t necessarily happen all that often. We don’t have to worry about walls appearing or disappearing here. We don’t have to worry about rooms being reorganized, and most of us aren’t moving every few weeks like some nomadic astral people might. However, there are still things that we can do to help make our experiences more stable and predictable for the entities we’re reaching out to.

  • Create a space that is just for them. This is usually going to be your shrine area, but it doesn’t have to be a shrine per se. Having an item or a space within your home that is specifically for the entities you’re hoping to interact with will help to give them a solid place to settle in whenever they come over. This allows entities to saturate items with their energy, or place markers and other identifiers into their space that will allow them to transition into our plane much smoother. Using items that they readily identify with will help make it easier for them to ground into the space, and settle into their “body” or a vessel/item that can contain a portion of their energy.
  • Keep a schedule. Just like with my family preparing things for when I arrive, it can make it easier for the entity you’re trying to communicate with to manifest if you’ve got a regular schedule. When some sort of schedule is kept, it makes it easier for them to time their efforts for trying to communicate with us, and it makes it easier for us to hear them because we’re both working towards the same goal at the same time. I often feel that devotees end up playing this never-ending game of phone tag with the gods, and figuring out a schedule for everyone to work around can help combat that.
  • Start off sessions or rituals with similar dynamics. These dynamics can be any number of things. It can be playing the same song before your ritual. It can be saying the same words at the beginning of each ritual. It can be wearing the same thing for each ritual. Or sitting in a certain way. Anything that can be repeated regularly can help create a trigger that can help both you and any spirits you’re working with transition into a different mindset before communing begins. In the same way that a bell primed Pavlov’s dogs to be fed, starting off your sessions or rites with the same thing can prime your brain (and your gods or spirits) for astral work.
  • Provide energy. Traveling across planes takes up energy, so if you can give some sustenance to your spirits or gods to utilize during travel, it can help them to become more prominent within the space. Energy can be in the form of food, but it can also be the energy you raise in ritual or energy you give of yourself, etc.

When all of these things are met on the regular, you essentially create a predictable schedule that the entity can plan for, which will occur in a predictable space that the entity can settle into when they arrive. By having familiar items and sounds around, the entity should be able to grasp onto these things and settle into the space with less issues. And the easier that it becomes for the entity to settle into our physical world, the more likely they are to do it more often. And further, I believe that it helps the gods to better understand us the more often that they come here.

While this is certainly not a definitive list, I feel that these are the staples for creating more stability for non-physical entities to alight within a space, and if you end up trying any of them, I’d be interested to hear how they work for you.

 

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Side Effects of Astral Bleed-Through

I don’t know if my experiences are considered “normal”, but I’ve found over the years that it’s really only a matter of time before your astral life starts to bleed over into your day-to-day life. In many ways, I expected it, as you’re essentially immersing yourself into a separate culture, and creating something of a second life that you live. Though I suppose how much this second life effects you will largely depend upon how much time you spend traveling, and how different the world that you fall into Over There is from over here.

For me, the process of bleed-through hasn’t been exactly linear, but it’s definitely occurred. At first it was relatively small things, and they were things that I either expected (such as problems coping with traumatic experiences, or the inevitable learning curve that comes with astral work) or purposefully worked to pull into my life (such as changing my clothing or buying new items that remind me of my family, etc.)

But then it started to get worse, this bleed-through. I started having issues with not saying “oh where I come from, we do this” because I knew that if I did, someone would want to know where exactly it was that I came from, and I wouldn’t have an answer for them. And then I found that my accent from Over There started to show up more and more over here, which I constantly have to battle now. And then it became things like saying words that belong to a language that I don’t even have a name for. As I caught the words in my throat, I anticipated having others ask me “oh what language is that”, and the resulting embarrassment of going “I have no clue :)”. The more bleed-through I began to experience, the less control I had over it.

And then I noticed a lot of my fundamentals began to change.

The more work I did in the astral, the more people I met, the more my ingrained views were challenged and scrutinized. The more experiences I had, the more I was forced to question how things are done here, and whether those methods are truly for the best. I found that we readily accept a lot of things as truths, as being “the only way” of doing something, but when you get far far away from home, you find that there are actually many ways to do things. And sometimes the way you know best isn’t necessarily the best way.

I found that my ideas about ethics for things began to shift and morph as I learned about other places. I found that my distaste for certain things went down in some ways, but went up in others. I found that I became more and more frustrated about the limitations of this planet that we live on. I found that my new methods of approaching things might not make other humans thrilled or happy.

I found that through the act of traveling, parts of myself had begun to change. The me from Over There was really beginning to bleed into the me that is over here, and I was left figuring out how to reconcile the two. Or more accurately, I was left figuring out how to reconcile living in this world with the new knowledge I had gained from traveling.

This opened up an interesting dichotomy for me. On one hand, it’s readily accepted and acknowledged that entities that live Over There might operate differently than humans. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen people mention that gods might behave differently than us because their ethical structures are different than ours. I’ve seen the same said about fae as well. It’s more or less accepted knowledge that entities that don’t live here don’t always behave in ways that we expect or would prefer. And the sentiments that usually accompany this thinking is that we shouldn’t try and change their methodologies just because they’re foreign to us.

But on the other hand, what about the people who consistently work with these beings? How long can we expect practitioners to rub elbows with entities who aren’t from here before they start to act more like the beings that they’re rubbing elbows with? What of the bleed-through that spirit workers will (likely) inevitably experience? How should spirit workers and/or astral travelers be expected to handle such bleed-through? What about situations where a spirit worker’s actions grate against their own morals and ethics (because sometimes you are not in control of yourself when you are traveling), how do they cope with the gap between the two? What are our collective expectations for such situations?

This is especially important because there is a lot of double-bind logic going on within the pagan community. Based off of what I’ve read, a lot of people would tell you that you shouldn’t go into someone else’s culture and try to change it. In that respect, we should respect that the gods do things differently than we do and that we shouldn’t push our human methods onto non-humans. Makes sense and seems respectful, right?

But then on the other hand, if a spirit worker has picked up traits from Over There that belong to that culture, but clash with our more human mentalities–what then? If you’re not supposed to change the astral culture you live in, you’ll be forced to more or less assimilate into the culture in order to get along, fit in, and get work done. But you’re also not allowed to bring it over here because it’s foreign or weird or is considered immoral by humans–what do you do? Currently, the answer seems to be that you shift your mindset from here to There and back again as you travel, but is that causing harm to the spirit worker’s health? Are there better methods to doing this? We won’t ever know unless we can openly discuss such things.

Speaking purely for myself, I have kept most of my bleed-through entirely to myself. I don’t talk about it publicly very much, and I’ve found that I’m able to keep a lot of the shifts and changes I’ve experienced to myself. I’ve learned to split my brain apart even more, to remind myself that “when you’re here, you do X, and when you’re there, you do Y” so as to not make anyone uncomfortable or weirded out. But just like with anything that lives in a closet or compartment, there are always days when it’s harder to keep such things hidden. There are days when I’d like to openly discuss some of the weirdness I’ve picked up along the way, with the hope that maybe I can network with others and learn from them about how they cope with maintaining separate mentalities for here vs. There.

Bleed-through was completely expected, but the way in which it’s manifested has taken me by surprise (at least a little bit). I’d certainly love to hear if other spirit workers have experienced bleed-through or shifts in their life because of what they’ve picked up while traveling or working with spirits. And if you do experience such things, how you cope with them or handle them.

 

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The Evolution of Mental Illness

I was recently participating in a discussion on Facebook about the negative voices that live in our heads, and heka that can be done to keep them at bay. In the post that was sparking the discussion, the author suggests that giving the negative voices in our heads a name and a form can help us to sit down and discuss things with them. It allows us to interact with parts of ourselves so that we can learn more about who we are, and more importantly, what causes some of these voices to speak up as they do. The long-term goal, as far as I could tell, was that by conversing with these voices, you’d hear less from them in time.

This got me thinking about the voices that pop up in my own head. Of course, I’m not talking about the voice of the gods or spirits that I work with. I’m talking about the voices that often tell me that I suck, or that remind me that I’m not doing as much as I’d like (often stated as “not doing as much as I should“). I’m talking about negative voices that often come with mental illness.

The more I began to mull over what those voices that embody my mental illness try to tell me is the “proper” reality that I live in, the more it really hit home that conversing with my internal voices probably wouldn’t do much for me. Why? Because I’ve found over the years that my mental illness evolves. You see, when I was younger, those voices would still tell me that I suck, but they’d use different reasons to showcase why it is that I suck. For example, when I was younger, I was a lot more isolated from other people, and I was frequently wracked with loneliness. So my voices would remind me about how no one really liked me, and how I could very easily just disappear and no one would notice, and I believed what my mental illness told me because I had nothing to prove them wrong. But now that I’ve worked through some of that baggage? It’s no longer used against me. If my voices want to bring me down, they know that that angle won’t work anymore, and so they choose a different soft point to poke at (such as “this particular person doesn’t like you and never will because you suck” etc.)

This is probably even remotely possible for me to detect on my end because of the shadow work that I’ve done over the past several years. I feel as though my trudging through life with all of my issues was a relatively plateaued affair until I began to actively hack at it in my late twenties via shadow work. Or in other words, my mental illness could hit me in the same spots over and over again when I was younger because I wasn’t making leaps and bounds worth of changes in the mental illness arena. The same issues and concerns I had in late high school were relatively similar to the issues and concerns I had in my early twenties. It only really shifted once I began the shadow work process.

But this highlights for me one of the ultimate caveats to shadow work that doesn’t seem to be spoken about enough–sometimes all the shadow work in the world won’t actually fix everything. I know I talked about this briefly in my post about shadow work being an ongoing process, but it really hit me hard when I realized that as I was beginning to learn how to outwit and overcome my mental illness, my mental illness was evolving to learn how to outwit me.

A side effect of this is that the voices have changed their ‘sales pitch’ to fit whatever topic is the most damaging at any given point in time. Once upon a time, my anxiety and depression could get away with telling me just about anything, and I’d believe it. But now they both have to work a little harder by formatting their statements a certain way in order for me to listen.

This probably sounds like an improvement, and in some ways it is. Due to the work I’ve put in, I can now shrug off certain statements that my brain will fling at me, and certain topics are relatively harmless to my mental health (in comparison to before). But don’t get me wrong–just because these mental illnesses seem to have to work a little harder to figure out what to tell me to get me to sink doesn’t mean that it’s still not effective. Nearly two years of being in mental illness hell is proof that these illnesses are very much in full swing and are effective at crippling me when they want to.

Another way to possibly illustrate it is to compare it to holes in a boat. If I have a boat that has a large hole in the bottom, there is no getting away from the fact that that sucks. Boats with holes don’t float very well. But let’s say that I learn how to somewhat patch this hole up, and now I have two smaller holes instead of one large one–some might consider that an improvement, but my boat still has holes in it. And that’s how I feel when I look at how my mental illness has shifted over the years. In some ways it’s an improvement, but I still have to live with mental illness. And that mental illness is still damned effective at doing what it does despite all of my best efforts.

The biggest point I really wanted to emphasize here is that shadow work will only do so much. Not many of us emphasize it enough, but there is no getting away from that fact: shadow work, therapy, all of these things that we use to try and heal ourselves from our trauma–they only go so far for some things. All of the shadow work in the world won’t erase mental illness, nor will it fix everything. You can definitely wage war against mental illness and push it back a bit, but just like isfet, it is always there lurking at the corners of ones mind. Just like with the gods working to maintain ma’at, the work we put in to stay as healthy as possible with mental illness is a non-stop, never-ending process.

And similarly, if you find that you’ve been working for years trying to get headway with your mental illness, but find that you’re still only treading water, please know this: you’re not alone. Fighting against mental illness is hard and it’s a non-stop battle, and you’re not less for not being able to squash your mental illness down entirely. While so much of the world seems to want to imply that you can somehow teach your mental illness a thing, and make it so that it no longer effects you, that’s simply not true (and honestly smacks against the fact that it’s an illness). And if my experiences are any indication at all, as you improve at waging war against your illness, your illness could get more adept at waging war against you.

Because I haven’t said it enough, remember that shadow work is a tool in your toolbox, and the same way that a hammer doesn’t work that great for putting screws into something, sometimes shadow work isn’t the right tool for the job. Sometimes you’ll do your shadow work exactly as you’re supposed to, and you’ll still come out not completely healed. This isn’t necessarily your fault, but is the nature of living in imperfect bodies that are often riddled with illness. You’re not bad for not being able to fix an incurable illness. You’re not bad for not being able to “magic” such things away. And don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Have you found that shadow work only goes so far with mental illness? How do you combat this? Have you found that your illness has evolved or changed it’s “angle of attack” over the years?

 

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Shadow Work: A Never-ending Process

It’s fairly well known that shadow work is sort of a pain. It’s difficult to work through less-than-ideal parts of yourself or your life. It’s hard to figure out how to heal damage that has been done to you, and it can be challenging to fit such heavy work into what is likely an already jam-packed life schedule. Not to mention that the gods rarely give you a game plan on how to exactly go about performing your shadow work- in so many ways, shadow work is sort of a headache in the making. It’s really no wonder that many of us stall out very quickly on trying to figure the whole shadow work thing out.

On top of everything listed above, I think one of the largest pitfalls regarding shadow work is that many of us assume that we’ll get a list of things we need to work through, and then once we’ve managed to mark everything off of that list, our shadow work is effectively “done” and we won’t have to work on it anymore. But then we usually find out later that we’re regressing and falling back into old patterns and routines. And the next thing you know, the gods show back up and tell us to fix some of the same things that we thought were already addressed and handled. Like many things in life, shadow work is something that is more effective if you incorporate it as a sort of ongoing, long-term practice or procedure within your life, but I don’t know that the gods have made that very obvious or apparent to many us.

For this post, I’d like to explore some ways to re-frame shadow work into something that is more on-going and less of a one off sort of thing. I’m going to use two examples that make sense to me as a means to help illustrate why shadow work should be a continuous thing, not a one-time process.

Example one: Shadow work is like dental work

I know, I know. “oh gods, you’re going to talk about teeth??” No one wants to hear about their oral health, especially when discussing paganism, but hear me out. As most of you probably could guess, many people come into the dentist after long periods of neglecting their oral health. It’s really not uncommon for someone to come in and say “I haven’t seen a dentist in 20 years”, and you can tell by looking at their teeth.

Typically when a mouth is in that level of disrepair (as many of us who are starting on a heaping pile of shadow work often are), you create what we call a treatment plan as a means to address all of the issues of the mouth so that the patient can be put back into optimal oral health. There is a certain procedure/method that is used by dentists to do this, and I think it is useful when considering shadow work.

The first step in any sort of treatment plan is to get rid of the big fires. That means that you address the work that is preventing your patient from eating or chewing properly. Anything that is actively painful or rotting in their head gets fixed before you work on the more superficial or cosmetic parts of their mouth. As you progress through a treatment plan, you deal with the biggest issues first and work your way down to the smaller stuff. Of course, sometimes a patient really wants their smile to all be fixed right now, but that’s not usually feasible if you’ve been slacking on your oral health for a few decades.

Shadow work is the same way. Start with putting out the biggest fires first. What is the most crucial to your daily life? What are you ignoring that has the largest impact on your living situation? What can you fix that will lessen up everything else you need to work on? Start with that first.

But here is where the ongoing comes in.

Once a patient has gotten their mouth all fixed up and beautiful again, what do you think happens if they don’t continue to upkeep their mouth? I’ll give you a hint: what got their mouth into such a state of disrepair in the first place? The answer is, as you probably guessed, a lack of upkeep. Mouths are not things you can simply stop taking care of, and expect their health to maintain all on its own. Its much like any other body part- you need to keep it clean and maintained if you want the health of said body part to last. Your mouth is no exception. If you get thousands of dollars of work done in your mouth, but then never floss or brush or go in for cleanings, you can expect that your mouth will go right back into disrepair in due time.

And shadow work is no exception.

Example two: Shadow work is like owning a house or property

Another way to frame this discussion is from the perspective of a house owner. My grandmother owns a house on property, and on the surface, everything looks relatively nice, but when you take a look at the structure of the house critically, you can tell that she hasn’t done any maintenance work for a long time. Sure, some of the stuff is superficial and not very important, but there are other things that are turning into time bombs due to a lack of maintenance. Because of the delay in getting work done, what might have originally been a $50 job is going to turn into a $500 job.

Just like with dentistry, you often maintain a house by fixing the most important stuff first, and handling the less important, more superficial stuff later on. You may want to paint your living room walls, but I’ll wager that you’ll want to fix the hole in your roof before you bother with the painting. Otherwise, all of that paint goes to waste during the next rain storm.

And just like with a house or teeth, there are regular intervals for maintaining certain things around your house. In the desert, we all know that you should get your A/C checked out before the summer months hit. Otherwise, you’re looking at spending the first super hot weekend without any air conditioning. Almost every part of a house needs to have regular check-ups and replacements. Roofs need to be re-shingled. Appliances need to have regular maintenance done. Your air filter needs to be swapped out once a month. Things need to happen all the time in order to keep a house in good shape.

Bringing it all together: Balancing action with planning

So I’ve probably driven home that regular maintenance is a good thing. But how does this apply directly to shadow work? Here are some ways that I take the above examples and use them in my personal shadow work process.

I’ve always used a system where I have high points and low points. High points would be the equivalent of spring cleaning- we (me and the gods) sit down and look at what needs to be fixed, where I want to go, what the priorities are for everyone involved. When I’m trying to figure out what you want to do in terms of shadow work, I often ask myself some of the following questions:

  • What exactly am I doing that is problematic?
  • What parts of myself do I want to improve?
  • What have I been putting off in terms of improvement?
  • Have I been slacking on maintaining anything I fixed in the past? Am I regressing at all?
  • What have others suggested I work on? Are their suggestions valid? If so, how can I implement them?
  • What am I doing that is working? How can I ensure that I keep these practices up?

Once we figure out what we want, we then plan out how to get it. Though they probably did more of the planning in the earlier stages, because they were the ones running the show initially. The further I’ve gotten into shadow work, the more I have been included in what I want to do, and how I think would be a good way to go about getting what I want (or what the gods want). I think ideally, the gods want me to be able to do this process on my own without their help.

And then the low points are resting points. As I’ve said before, you can’t work all the time, and sometimes life is too busy for me to be doing heavy shadow work. But that being said, I always have to keep my eyes open to the status of my life and person. Like I mentioned in the house analogy above, I might not be able to re-shingle my roof right now, but I can be aware that it needs to be done, and that it will need to be handled. So I might mentally prep to address that during the next meeting with the gods, even though we won’t be touching it for a while. Due to life and its cycles, there have been times when we’ve had to shelf projects and shadow work. We’ve got times where I already know I’m going to be plowing through a bunch of crap all at once (the Mysteries is a good example of this), and so kinda like running a farm, I try to plan for those kinds of personal seasons. I know when I need to plant my seeds, I know when I need to harvest, and I can rest during the recession of summer if you will.

This is the basic structure for how I maintain my shadow work “practice”. I balance out actively working on what I want to achieve with planning for how I will maintain what I have accomplished through previous shadow work. It’s an ongoing process of action and rest that doesn’t really stop (though it can be put on hold for certain life events). I start each cycle by putting out the largest fires first (if any cropped up while I wasn’t paying attention) and then progressively work on fixing everything else as resources are made available. And I think that ideally, once everything is all fixed (I still haven’t really reached this point, but I feel like I’m getting there), the goal will be to maintain myself while helping others work on their “houses”.

The more I work on shadow work, the more I believe that it’s best viewed as an ongoing process. I’ve found that by going back and reevaluating what I’ve done and where I’m at, I can make sure that I don’t slide back into bad habits, and I can ensure that I’m going in the direction that I want to go in. Practice makes perfect, and by consistently addressing my more negative traits, I am better able to fix the things that I want to fix.

How do you approach shadow work? Do you think that shadow work should be an on-going process? Or do you feel that it’s better to only perform shadow work when you need to?

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Worshiping the Unknown

Figuring out how to worship, venerate or work with a deity can be challenging. You’ve got to read up on their mythology, their history, and the culture and religion that surrounded them back in the day. And once you get through the mountain of reading material, you have to sit down and figure out how to work everything that you’ve read into something practical and useful that will look remotely like a religious practice. But as challenging as figuring out what to do with known gods can be, there is something that can be even more difficult — trying to figure out how you’re supposed to venerate unknown entities. Whether unknown gods or entities that aren’t gods at all, it can be nerve wracking to figure out how create a practice or routine when there is virtually no reading material at all. And if your unknown entity isn’t from earth or doesn’t have a known religion or culture that you can read up on, the challenges can become even more daunting as you try and figure out what to do.

I’ve had the pleasure of finding a whole host of entities whose names will never be known on earth. Their names will never grace a text book. Their cultures and places of origin will never cross a human’s lips. For all intents and purposes, they are unknown to humanity. Getting to know each of these entities and their back-histories has taken quite a long time and a heap of effort on all of our parts. My experience has been that getting to know non-physical entities takes time and energy, regardless of how well known they are or aren’t. However, there are definitely some unique challenges to each side of the spectrum (known vs. unknown).

Stepping into the Unknown: Creating Stability

I think the biggest challenge for working with unknown entities (as opposed to known entities) is that there is no history or stories you can glean from in order to get a sense of who they are or how they act. With a bigger name god, you can read up on them, learn what they like or don’t like, or get a feel for how they handle situations or problems. You can read their mythos and learn if they’re a hot head or if they stay cool under stress. You can learn about that one time they overdosed on that concoction that they like and work that into your relationship with them. With unknown entities, you are starting from ground zero and have to rely solely on your own intuition and discernment based off of what the entity may or may not tell you. It’s very daunting to know that there is no one you can cross reference your information with. There is no text book or historical record that can confirm what this entity told you. Working with unknown entities can definitely put your discernment to the test in the way that known entities might not.

I’ve found that one of the most important things for success when starting from ground zero is to create some level of stability for both you and the entity you’re communicating with. Interacting across planes of existence uses up a fair amount of energy, and entities that don’t have hundreds or thousands of devotees aren’t going to have a lot of excess energy to interface with this realm. Working to create a place of stability for interaction can help to make your interactions easier and hopefully will require less energy from both parties. This can manifest in a number of ways. You could work to meet up at the same time every day or week, so that the entity can create a sort of schedule to work around. You could always meet up in the same location, to make it easier for them to manifest in whatever space you’re in. You could keep a certain deck or space in your house for them, so that it’s easier for them to alight from said space or utilize and “own” whatever items you might be using for communication (this is particularly useful if you use decks of cards for communicating). Or you could start each communication “session” with the same sound, song, scent, actions, etc. to create something very stable for the entity to latch on to.

I truly can’t overemphasize how stability and repetition can help an entity gain an easier entrance/access to this plane. If you can find a way to create a stable place for you and the entity to interact, it’ll make your interactions much more frequent and more productive.

But how can I create a stable space or practice if I know nothing about them?

This of course is the crux of so many things. It’s the ever present paradox of how can you create a space if you don’t know what they like? How can you communicate with them if you can barely communicate at all? How do I know what to offer if I don’t know what they like? How can I do anything without ensuring that I don’t upset them or make a social faux pas? There are multiple ways to tackle these problems, and there is no single right or wrong method to overcoming these challenges, but here are some recommendations that I can give.

Take Copious Notes

Even if you aren’t very good at communicating with your unknown entity, there has to be at least some level of communication in order for you to know that they exist. Take a close look at what you recall from the communications you’ve had with the entity. What did you notice about your interaction? What can you remember from it? Some things to take note of:

  • Clothing, hair style, form, manner of dress. Were they humanoid? Something else?
  • Location cues: where were you when interacting? what can you glean from the background/surroundings?
  • Were there any scents? How about sounds? Utilize all 5 senses when recalling an interaction
  • Did they have any mannerisms of note? Are they uptight? relaxed? Are they immaculately dressed or were they in the equivalent of “street clothes”?
  • What formats do they use to communicate with you most often? What can you glean from these methods?

Look at every angle of any interaction you’ve had with them, and write down as much as you can. I would recommend doing this for every interaction you have with them until you feel more comfortable with things. This will form the basis for everything that follows.

Apply Your Notes

The next step is to look at what you’ve written down and use them to create your stability. There will likely be no ready-made icons or statues that you could use for your unknown entity on a shrine, but you may be able to use something that already exists instead. If the person looked humanoid, you may be able to find a picture of a human that looks like them, print that image off, and use it as a sort of icon on your shrine space. If you’ve got art skills or know someone who can draw, you may be able to create an art piece depicting them, or commission a piece from someone else.

Alternatively, you may be able to look at what they’re wearing and include other things that are part of their ensemble. For example, I have a menz who loves high-end suits. So I might be able to use various fancier suit-bits in a shrine setup (think cuff links, tie bars, etc). I’ve got another entity that wears nothing but black and silver, and so his shrine space is quite literally nothing but black, silver, and white. I’ve got another menz who loves coffee and leather, and so I use those items to lure him into talking to me.

Use all of those notes that you took to find different things that you think might be helpful in creating a shrine/stable place that they might like. Keep in mind that this could change as you get to know the entity better. It’s entirely common to pick slightly off-base things when you first start out. That’s fine. The most important here is to find a place to start. Things tend to fall into place as you progress and get better at communicating.

Bridging the Gap

Speaking of communication, it’s worth noting that it may be very rough at first. When I first really started to try and work with my menz, communication was really really patchy. I couldn’t see worth a damn and I could barely hear on top of that. I’ve mentioned in the past that this sort of work has a learning curve, and so it’s important to remember to be consistent and persistent. It takes time and consistent effort (on both ends) for this sort of thing to work out and get easier.

When it comes to communicating with unknown entities, I’ve found that there are a few things that helped me bridge the gap. First is that I always brought some kind of energy or sustenance for the entity. Sometimes that involves raising energy using my body. Other times I would use music or sound as a form of energy. Other times it would be offerings or food. And sometimes a mixture of all of these. The reasons for this are two-fold. First is that the entity will possibly be inclined to work up the effort to come meet me because I’m giving them sustenance for their effort. I’m essentially paying them for their time, so they will be more inclined to prioritize seeing me. The second reason is that I’ve found that it often helps me to communicate better. This is less the case with food, but music, dancing or words of power will often help put my mind into a specific space that is ideal for working with the Unseen. And if both I and the entity are listening to the same thing, it helps to sync us up for better communication.

As mentioned above, I also found that consistency of timing helped, too. All of my menz know that I am available to talk during my lunch break, my walk home (which used to be my drive home), and after I have taken my nightly medication (all of which happen at about the same time every day). Back when I had more time to dedicate to the Unseen, I also had meditation/dance sessions regularly during the week during which we’d be able to talk or communicate with one another. Consistency helped all of us, because they could plan their day and include me in their planning/schedule. The consistency meant that we could sometimes dedicate one day to menz A, and another day to menz B, and everyone would get relatively equal attention and time. It also created something predictable, and if something came up on either side in terms of a conflict of schedule, we’d be able to notify the other that we wouldn’t be able to make it. That way, no one was left waiting around wondering why the other wasn’t showing up.

In many ways, it’s the same as having a relationship with a human. You usually make plans and plan for a certain time to meet up. I have found that using this system works for the Unseen, too.

But what if I get it wrong?

I think the biggest fear and hurdle so many people who worship unknown entities have is that they’ll screw up royally and ruin everything. Speaking as someone who has gotten it wrong several time over, both with known and unknown entities, I’d definitely say that getting things wrong is not the worst thing in the world. It’s normal to mess up. It’s normal to possibly not get things exactly right the first time you do stuff. Most entities that aren’t well known on earth come into relationships with an understanding that humans are limited in what they can glean from brief interactions with the Unseen. And if the entity you’re working to get to know gets cranky that you’re not up to speed fast enough, remind them that you’re doing the best, and possibly ask them if they have suggestions to make things easier for the both of you.

Sometimes entities will be able to give you better ideas than what I’ve given here. Each relationship is different, and entities from other parts of the Unseen may benefit from other methods than what I’ve listed above. These are simply guidelines to help get you started. If your entity has other suggestions, I recommend looking into them, because they certainly know their specific situation better than I would.

Have you ever worked with a relatively unknown entity? How did you build your relationship with them? What challenges have you faced that are different from working with known entities?

Related posts:

A note: A lot of these posts do focus on known gods, but the concepts are applicable to non-gods and unknown entities as well.

 

 

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What an earthquake taught me about discernment

Arizona is not known for it’s earthquakes. In fact, Arizona is probably not known for much in terms of natural disasters. However, earlier this month, Arizona had the pleasure of experiencing 3 earthquakes in one night. Typically this isn’t something I’d bring up on this blog. TTR is about Kemeticism and astral tom foolery, not geology. However, as I sat in the dark looking for information on why my house felt like it had just done a small dance, I noticed something really interesting about people’s reactions that made me think about a rather common topic in paganism: people were questioning their discernment.

You see, I bring up the whole “Arizona is not known for earthquakes” because it’s rather relevant for this story. You’d think that an earthquake would be pretty easy to discern even if you’d never experienced one before, right? The ground moves. Everything on the ground moves with it. Sometimes your house makes noise. Sometimes pictures fall off the wall, or chandeliers shake. It’s pretty straightforward, right?

Apparently it’s not straightforward enough, because many Arizonans were questioning what exactly had happened to them- myself included.

twitter_azearthquak

Even though all of us had felt the ground move and knew that earthquakes and little else usually involve the ground moving, we were all scratching our heads going “did I get that right?”

This seems to be how it goes with the Unseen, too. So many times we seem to think that some stuff should be pretty easy to discern. “If I see this sign, then I’ll know for sure that this is real.” “If I experience this, then I’ll know for sure that this is real.”

But how many of us actually operate that way? How many times have we seen something smack us straight in the face, and we still deny it?

“Every single reading I’ve gotten has pointed to X, but I’m still not sure that it’s actually X.” “I had a vision about the thing, and then a dream about the thing, and then a reading about the thing, but I’m still not sold that I’ve got it right.”

It seems that questioning your experiences isn’t really something that only happens in the pagan community. Even for something as blatant as an earthquake, because Arizonans believe that “those things just don’t happen here”, many of us second guessed whether we had actually felt the ground move. The only reason I was looking up information online was because I really had a hard time believing that I had felt the ground move, that I had felt an earthquake happen (even though I know for a fact that they do happen here in the state).

Now imagine what that’s like for something less physical. Something a bit more nebulous and harder to prove one way or the other. It’s really no wonder so many of us have problems with discernment. And while this experience didn’t teach me how to discern better, it did teach me to be a little less hard on myself when trying to figure things out. It’s taught me to question ingrained ideas about what I consider to be “logical” or “within the possibility of being real”. And possibly even more importantly, it taught me that so many others question just like I do. It seems like a lot of people assume that people instantly assume anything they experience is real without a second thought. But as you can see in the screencaps above, that’s apparently not the case- even in mundane matters. So many of us question things that should be pretty obvious. So many of us struggle with discernment.

Discernment isn’t easy (probably for anyone), and this experience has definitely reminded me to be more patient with myself (and others) when I am trying to discern the “truth”out of something. I have to remind myself that questioning everything to death is more normal than most of us assume, and that there reaches a point where questioning is no longer doing anyone any benefit. Now if only discerning stuff from the Unseen was as easy as discerning an earthquake- then we’d be on to something!

For more information on how to fine tune your discernment, check out the FAQ.

 

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