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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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Spirit Work & Mental Illness

Alternate title: Quit romanticizing my illness.
Alternate title #2: Quit demonizing my treatment.

Every so often I will see little flare-ups in the pagan community that center on two fairly unrelated topics: spirit work and mental illness. Don’t get me wrong, these topics can be related, but they aren’t necessarily related, though many people try to make them out to be. I’m sure many of you have seen articles like this and this that go on and on about how we’re killing our spirit workers because they have mental illness and are not handling it “properly”. And if we’d only just learn how to “properly” handle these “gifts” that we’ve been bestowed, we’d suddenly find that our problems would poof out of existence.

Being a spirit worker myself, I read these posts and feel my jaw clench shut as I find rage welling up in my stomach. These posts are so damaging on so many levels, to both spirit workers and the mentally ill (as well as mentally ill spirit workers), and it really bugs me that so many people don’t see what is wrong withposts like this. There are so many flaws with these kinds of posts that it’s almost impossible to know where to start when critiquing them. But here are a few of the main problems that come to mind whenever this sort of stuff shows up on my FB wall or dash:

Your illness is really a gift from the divine!

One of the first issues that I see popping up with these kinds of articles is the idea that  your mental illness is not actually an illness or a problem, but is really a gift from the gods. And if you’d just learn to accept that, you’d feel all sorts of better! This is also sometimes presented as “if only our society would see the inherent worth and value of your mental illness, you would feel all sorts of better”.

The truth of the matter is, most of the spirit workers I’ve met who are also mentally ill don’t feel like their mental illness is “divine”. I’m here to tell you that I don’t perform as well as a spirit worker when my mental illnesses are flaring up and ruining my life, and it seems like many people feel the same way. Even if society were to somehow make it a-okay to be depressed and anxious all of the time, I would still feel pretty miserable regularly, and wouldn’t be able to operate at maximum capacity.

Mental illness is an energy suck. It sucks the life out of you and leaves you feeling drained, tired, and miserable (most of the time). I can’t imagine how anyone would find this to be divine in nature. Quite honestly, I would expect being tired, drained and miserable would be the opposite of being divine. And no amount of outside support is going to change that my illnesses leave me feeling like crap on the regular. You can’t sunshine and rainbows away mental illness. You simply can’t. And implying that this is a gift is like spitting in the face of every person who has to work really hard to function despite their mental illness/es. Implying that someone with mental health issues doesn’t really know what their illness “actually” is is also ableist. Of course, if you are mentally ill and wish to make it a part of your spirituality, or find that it is a source of power for your spirit work, that’s fine. But it’s one thing to believe that your particular mental illness is a strength for you, and quite another to imply that everyone else who is mentally ill should operate the same way.

I’ve also never understood why so many people believe that mental illness always makes you a spirit worker. I have been depressed and anxious for as long as I can remember, but spirit work wasn’t really a part of my life until I was in my mid-to-late 20’s. And truth be told, my mental illness didn’t really play a role in my becoming a spirit worker (and based off of what I’ve read, mental illness was not a common indicator of spirit work in some cultures in the past- physical health was another story, though). If anything, my mental illness often gets in the way of doing what I need to do Over There, and there are many times when I get really frustrated with the constant interruptions that crop up from my brain deciding that it needs to tank my mood right when important work needs to get done.

There are many mentally ill people who are not spirit workers, and who don’t want to be spirit workers. Conversely, I’ve met plenty of non-mentally ill spirit workers. I’m not sure where this idea originally came from, but it’s an idea that needs to stop propagating. You can be mentally ill and a spirit worker, you can be a spirit worker who isn’t mentally ill, and you can be mentally ill and not a spirit worker. None of these things is necessarily related.

Medication is bad, m’kay?

The other factor that I see constantly brought up in these articles is the idea that if you’re using western medicine in any capacity, you’re drugging your abilities away, or ruining the gift that you’ve supposedly been given.

For anyone that has been following me for any amount of time, you know that I have worked on finding ways to medicate myself, and that I’ve had a fair amount of success with it so far. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to go back to pre-medication me. Medication can take all sorts of forms, and since mental illness can’t really be cured, we really have no place to judge what works or doesn’t work for another. So long as you’re being responsible and healthy about your medication choices, that’s really all that matters. The idea that medication is somehow going to ruin you is so damaging, and prevents people from seeking out treatment. It causes people to be miserable because they fear seeking treatment, or they feel like treatment makes them weak as a person.

Everyone really needs to stop implying that medication is inherently bad (you are treating an illness, after all. And if you’d take medicine for a physical illness, you shouldn’t be chastising someone for taking medication for a mental illness). There are so many people I have met (spirit workers and non-spirit workers alike) who have become better and more stable because of their treatments. I have met spirit workers who feel like their medication makes them better spirit workers. Because, wow, you can actually get more work done when your brain isn’t working against you.

Discernment? What discernment?!

Something else I’ve noticed when these kinds of posts are trawled out is that discernment seems to go down the tubes. In many ways, people seem to believe that if you happen to “see” something that “isn’t there”, then it must be a spiritual experience, and can never be a symptom mental illness.

The truth is that many spirit workers who have mental illness will tell you that there is a definite difference between the symptoms of their illness, and what they experience as a spirit worker. I have met people who have told me that their hallucinations have a very different look and feel in comparison to their astral visions and travels. I’ve met others who tell me that the non-existent things that they hear sound different than when a spirit is talking to them. I’ve met others who tell me that their medication has shifted their experiences (sometimes good, sometimes bad) and that once they took a closer look at their experiences, they could tell what was more induced via medication, and what was genuine.

However, when these posts start throwing the baby out with the bath water, and assume that all visions are the same- regardless of your “gift” of a mental illness, then we stop focusing on discernment and learning how mental illness and spirit work actually play together. Because they can play together, and there are distinct differences between the two for most of us who live with both. When discernment goes out the window, you’re creating a recipe for disaster, because discernment is key to staying safe while working with not only the Unseen, but within our community itself.

Why I consider this to be dangerous.

I personally believe that these sorts of ideas are not only incorrect and damaging, but I personally believe them to be entirely dangerous. They are dangerous because they don’t create an atmosphere where people who are mentally ill can actually seek out treatment that works well for them. The notion that all Western medicine is inherently bad and will completely screw you up often demotivates people to consider all possible treatment methods, and may cause people to skip over a particular treatment type that works for them. It may also be a strong enough argument to convince someone to stop treatment, even if it is working for them. And when people who are mentally ill don’t receive proper treatment, we often run into other problems that causes a decline in our quality of life. Buying into narratives that perpetuate this will cause people to get hurt in very real ways. I have met people who believed that they could spirit work their mental illness away, and let me tell you that the results were often not pretty, and in many ways, produced the exact opposite effect of what they desired.

This is also damaging to the spirit worker community and the wider pagan community as a whole. It causes people to feel inadequate in some ways, and gives people power that they wield poorly in others. The idea that all mentally ill people must be spirit workers creates a rift within the community, as those who are mentally ill, but not spirit workers may feel like they’re doing something wrong. “If all mentally ill people are supposed to be special, but I’m not getting anywhere, then I must be a screw-up, right?”  And if you happen to be a mentally ill spirit worker who is undergoing therapy or treatment, you may suddenly question if you’re also doing it wrong, because apparently these things will prohibit you from being as “good” of a spirit worker as you could be. Not to mention that it makes the spirit workers who are not mentally ill feel ostracized in a community that is already pretty small, niche, and hard to get into.

It sets up this expectation that most people will not meet, and that people shouldn’t have to meet, and yet people continue to push this narrative as if it’s 110% absolute truth. These ideas hurt those who are already vulnerable (mentally ill people) and inadvertently sets them up for a very likely failure. It takes the conversation off of important topics that could actually benefit mentally ill spirit workers (topics such as: how do I tell the difference between a spiritual experience and my mental illness, how do I tell the difference between the astral and a hallucination, how do I work around these crippling symptoms I am experiencing from my illness, how do you manage spirit work and mental illness, etc.) and puts the conversation onto a useless topic of “your medication is bad and everything would get better if you’d just become a spirit worker”.

Yes, it is true that our society doesn’t handle mental illness well. Yes, it is true that we would all benefit from having a society that accepts mental illness and treats it like the illness that it is. But I still don’t believe that spirit work is the cure for all mental illness (quite the opposite, really). I don’t believe that spirit work will make every single mentally ill person feel better (I’m still mentally ill), in the same way that I don’t believe that every mentally ill person is meant to be a spirit worker, or is even necessarily having a spiritual/Unseen experience (many of my symptoms have been exactly that- symptoms, not genuine spiritual experiences). In many ways, mental illness and spiritual experiences can have some overlap, but they aren’t inherently the same thing and it’s better for everyone that this becomes a more recognized and understood thing. I would love to see more discussion on their differences and similarities than the constant “they are all the same” that you seem to get in the posts linked above as it would actually help the mentally ill people that everyone is so intent on discussing.

 

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Getting Your Astral Ducks in a Row

via wikimedia commons

via wikimedia commons

I have spent a lot of time talking about how dangerous the astral can be. I’ve tried to drill home the fact that the astral can be fickle, and that it isn’t something to be trifled with lest you accidentally bite off more than you can chew. When it comes to the astral, I’ve always tried to present a realistic view of what you can expect. I try not to make out to be 110% scary, but I also try to ensure that everyone knows what they could be getting into before they start to knock on that proverbial door. I’ve always felt that it’s my responsibility as a traveler to represent the facts as they are, both good and bad, and to let everyone else make their own personal decisions about whether they want to take the risks of trying to get Over There.

Something that I realized this past week is that I never bothered to go into the things that could make your transition into astral work a bit easier. Someone had asked me what reasons one might have for waiting before trying to astral travel, which I interpreted as “what things you might want to have taken care of or accomplished before you try to travel”, and I felt it was a topic that was worth exploring more in-depth. So for this post, I’m going to talk about what you might want to tackle before you try to astral travel.

Why would I need to tackle anything?

The first thing you may be wondering is why you need to do anything before you try to astral travel. Most people don’t seem to talk about prerequisites for astral travel, unless it’s mastering the method of traveling itself. But the truth is, there can be some beneficial aspects to getting your shit together before you try to go traipsing through the Unseen. Just a few of the benefits of having your ducks in a row are: you may sustain less trauma when you get there, it can allow you to be less easily duped into things, it can make navigation easier and it can allow you to protect yourself better. Not to mention that having your ducks in a row can allow you to travel smoother and more readily in general.

While you certainly don’t need to have everything in order before you start to attempt astral travel (and truth be told, most of us aren’t perfect before we start to travel- sometimes the astral just won’t wait), it is certainly worth considering marking off at least a few of these things before you start to regularly attempt going to the Unseen.

Consider your location.

One of the first things I recommend that people consider before trying to break into the astral is their living situation. As it turns out, where you live and what kind of people you live with can greatly influence how successful you may or may not be in astral work. When I was living at my mother’s house, I was always so miserable and stressed that trying to relax long enough to even attempt to travel was pretty much a no-go. On top of my stress levels, I was always worried that someone was going to walk in on me or disturb my session, which made my attempts even less effective.

If you’re wanting to go a lot of astral work, you’re probably going to have to make multiple attempts at regular intervals. For some people this is a weekly event, for others it’s an almost daily event. If you don’t happen to live in a location that has the space, quiet, or predictability for you to practice traveling, you’re probably not going to get very far very quickly. On top of that, if you’re already capable of astral travel, moving into a location where you can’t go through the proper steps or motions in order to gain access to the astral, you’re probably going to see a drop in your abilities. Having the proper space in which to do your work is important, if not vital to your success in being able to travel. And if you’re living in a location where peace and quiet don’t exist, you may be better off waiting until your living situation changes before you try again.

Consider your mental and physical health.

Another thing to keep in mind is your mental and physical health, as both of these can influence your ability to travel as well as your discernment. For those who have mental health issues, I’ve found that bad mental health days often result in lackluster experiences Over There. I often have a hard time connecting to the astral, and that can result in an inability to move well, see well or hear just about anything. I’ve also found that bad mental health often results in less ability to discern what I’m seeing, and I’m more prone to falling into brain vomit than falling into the actual astral. And of course if I’m having a bad mental health day over here, and I fall into trouble Over There, my ability to cope with whatever is happening Over There drops dramatically. However, if I wait for days when I am somewhat mentally stable, I tend to be able to cope a lot better with whatever is going on. If you’ve got mental illness, it’s worth taking a look at how your illness effects your experiences so that you can begin to learn your own patterns and use those for discernment and planning your “travel schedule”. But if you’re just starting out, it may be best to make sure that you’re in a somewhat stable state of mind before you go anywhere. Otherwise you may be making your situation harder than it needs to be.

Physical health was always a big deal for me because I used very physical methods to travel when I first started out. Dancing until you can’t stand definitely takes its toll on your body, and if you happen to be sick (whether chronically or only for a short period of time), you may not be able to travel worth a damn until your body has healed up. This can be trialing if you’ve got chronic illness, and in those situations, I recommend that you experiment with less physically-taxing travel methods to see if you can find something that doesn’t stress your body out too much.

Much like with the living situation, if your mental health is in the garbage, or your body is unable to keep up, you’re likely going to be hitting quite a few walls during your traveling experiences. Making sure that you’re in a decent place mentally and physically before you take on the possibility of traveling can open you up for greater success and less frustration over all.

Be conscientious of your limitations.

Getting into astral work can take a lot of energy and time, and I think it’s important to keep in mind the limitations that you may or may not have before you attempt to make astral travel a regular part of your life. Having limitations isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we’ve all got them. However, starting to do work that you know you can’t maintain long term isn’t something that I can truly recommend. It’s important to remember that if you’re doing the work, on some level you have to accept that what you are experiencing is real. And while the relationships we develop in the astral may be a small part of our larger lives, that may not be the case for those who are living full time in the realms that you visit.

It is my personal and unpopular opinion that it’s not fair or responsible to travel over to the astral, begin to make a life there or develop relationships there, and then stop going all together. Obviously, life can have many twists and turns, and it’s entirely possible that things can happen here that you didn’t foresee. However, if you’re trying to do astral work, but know you’re not going to be able to maintain it in a long term fashion, I urge you to consider if it’s really a good idea. Is it really fair to anyone you befriend Over There to only travel during the summer when you’re not burdened with college? Is it fair to travel when you know you’re only going to be able to work at it for three weeks before your depression takes you out of the picture for 6 months? Is it fair to your family over here if you are already strapped for time, and are trying to fit another time-intensive activity into your waking life? Is it fair to you? In the same way that you wouldn’t want your friend, lover, or parent to disappear for months at a time, your astral companions may not be pleased to have you suddenly stop showing up because life got too difficult for you over here. Being aware of whether you can actually juggle life here and life there is incredibly important before you walk through the door to the Unseen.

Being aware of your limitations is important, not only for you, but for those you interact with- both over here and Over There. It’s not fair to anyone (yourself included) to only half-ass this type of work, and you can’t expect to get very far if you’re not willing or able to put forth a solid, consistent effort with traveling. Being aware of how your living situation, mental health, physical health, and other life requirements will play into your ability to travel is incredibly important. Taking note of what you can and can’t handle long term, and keeping an eye on your potential pitfalls will allow you to have more success when you attempt to travel, and better relationships both here and there.

Limitations are not necessarily a bad thing. They can often lead to interesting new methods of doing things and can drive innovation. However, not taking stock of potential problems is often a recipe for disaster. By taking the time to lay out some groundwork and getting your ducks in a row before you attempt to travel regularly can increase your chances of overall success.

Did you have your astral ducks in a row before you started to travel? If not, do you wish you actually had them in a row before you traveled? Any advice you’d give to people who are looking to make astral travel a part of their practice?

 

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Gods: More Like People Than You Think

Non-physical relationships can be a real pain to figure out. There aren’t any self-help books on them, and trying to get a communication style that works well can be challenging to say the least. Due to the nature of non-physical relationships, I think it’s common for people to flail and get scared when they need to figure out how to handle some of the bumps that normal relationships can take. You know the ones:

  • I think I made my god angry. How do I tell?
  • I know I made my god angry. How do I fix it?
  • How do I tell if this god is giving me the cold shoulder?
  • I don’t think my relationship with this god is working anymore. How do I end the relationship?
  • I haven’t been talking with the gods recently. Are they upset?

The truth of the matter is, regardless of whether your relationship is 110% in the flesh (such as with a physical human spouse, partner, parent, child, etc.) or whether it’s only half-physical (such as a god or spirit), a lot of the basics for relationships still apply. But for some reason, many of us have been trained to think that human relationship skills don’t apply to gods, and I can’t really figure out why.

I’m sure some of this has something to do with the Christian overtones many of us were raised in. God is bigger than you and cooler than you and doesn’t want to waste a lot of time with you (but he still loves you!). And then you have a lot of Pagan/polytheist bloggers who seem to imply that the gods are these HUGE BIG SCARY ENTITIES that you need to placate and offer your first born child to, lest they get mad at you. And in other situations, gods are apparently “above and beyond petty human concerns” and therefore don’t get mad or angry or make mistakes.

And when you’re new to Paganism or deity relationships, you probably have no clue what to do or where to turn, and you fear that one wrong move could be your last.

However, my experiences have shown me that the gods are a lot more like humans than we typically want to admit that they are. Yeah, they may have more power in some ways than we do. But at the end of the day, they seem to have a lot of the same basic attributes that we do, and I feel like we should be taking a closer look at that.

Like humans, no two are alike.

Something that is important to remember is that no two gods are going to necessarily handle a situation the same way. When people ask generalized questions such as “what should I give my god to appease them” or “will doing this upset the gods” the answer in response will almost always be “how should I know”. This is because no two gods are going to necessarily respond to something the same way.

For example, Set and Osiris don’t react to things the same way at all. Osiris gets more bent out of shape when I disappear for long periods of time, where as Set is more likely to say “you’re a spitting image of myself!”. When it comes to placating the gods, Osiris is more likely to want something heartfelt and small. Set is more likely to want a grandiose display.

This is no different than comparing two people who have different quirks, tastes, desires and needs. What you do may irritate one, but be preferred by the other. Giving XYZ food to one friend as a sign of thanks may send your other friend with the food allergy to the hospital.

In each situation you must take each god and devotee into consideration. Because what works for my relationship may not work for yours. No two gods are alike and no god will necessarily respond to two different devotees in the same way either. All of these situations carry a huge “your mileage may vary”.

Gods can be petty. Just like us.

I know that a lot of people seem to think that the gods can’t be petty. And maybe that’s true for some pantheons, but I’ll state that it’s certainly not true for all pantheons. For example…

Osiris wanted to humiliate his brother Set and convinced Ra to give him his Atef crown. With the new power bestowed upon him, he basically made Set kiss his butt and submit to his new power until his nose bled. This, of course, went to Osiris’ head so badly that he ended up getting a physical burn on his head from it.

Or you’ve got the Contendings where Horus basically does every underhanded trick in the book to try and win against Set because he is not above cheating.

And of course there is Thoth who will change his story to suit his needs so that he gets what he wants. And he is not above killing mortals who happen to stumble upon his books of knowledge.

Our gods are not above being petty. And if your pantheon is like my pantheon, your gods are probably not above being petty, either. This can influence interactions with them as well as what makes them grumpy or moody. You might think that your deity can’t get upset because you didn’t buy that piece of chocolate cake for them, but the truth is- they can get grumpy over that. I’m not saying that gods are always going to be petty, but it is certainly not outside of the realm of possibility. And therefore, it needs to be kept in consideration when developing a relationship with them.

Communication is key with relationships.

One of the biggest determining factors in whether a relationship with another human succeeds or not is communication. A relationship without communication is usually doomed to fail or be lackluster. Turns out that gods aren’t much different.

A lot of people like to ask how they should handle telling a god they screwed up. Or what they should do now that they’ve figured out that they no longer want to venerate this deity. Or they worry they messed up, and aren’t sure how to handle the situation. And in each of these situations, I always tell people to handle it the same way they would if it was another human.

If you screwed up, you’d usually tell the person it involves, and maybe smooth it over with a gift, if its appropriate. If you decide you no longer want to associate with someone (whether friends or otherwise), you usually would have to tell them at some point through some form of communication or another. And if you’re not sure if someone is mad at you, one of the fastest ways to find out is to ask.

And the same goes for gods.

Remember that gods aren’t actually mind readers (though sometimes I wonder about this) and they don’t follow us everywhere they go. Sometimes they aren’t going to know something unless you tell them about it. And sometimes the best way to get over a speed bump is to cut to the chase and talk with them. If you’re afraid of talking with your gods, I recommend you reevaluate why that is, and if your relationship with them is actually healthy. In all of my years of working with gods and spirits, I’ve found that open and honest communication goes a long way, and it’s made all of my relationships (both here and Over There) stronger.

Managing gods can be like managing friends or family. Or friends and family.

I’m pretty sure that most of the people reading this have many different kinds of relationships in their life. They have to manage time with kids and spouses, family and friends, coworkers and bosses, etc. There are many relationships that compose someone’s life, and each relationship has different needs and requirements to be kept healthy. And usually, certain relationships will require more time and/or dedication than others.

Many people struggle with the idea of having relationships with multiple deities. I think this stems from the notion that each god is super special, and so you must dedicate all of your time to each god, and each god must be dedicated to in equal measure. But the truth is, this isn’t necessarily the case. Much like juggling your friends and your family, one deity may require more time than another, and other gods may only want to hear from you once a season.

Whenever you’re trying to figure out how to handle multiple deities in your life, consider how you handle your human relationships. What do you do when aunt Sally’s birthday is on the same day that you and your friends wanted to go to a concert? What do you do when your child gets sick on date night? What about when your boss needs you to stay a little late when you had made dinner plans with your mother?

These types of situations all require different techniques to handle them, and the “right” answer will depend on your closeness with each person. Perhaps you don’t really like aunt Sally, and so you’ll opt for the concert instead. Or maybe aunt Sally is your favorite aunt, and you wouldn’t dream of missing her birthday. Neither answer is inherently correct or incorrect, but knowing your relationships will help you to figure out how to handle these kinds of situations when they pop up. Understanding what each deity requires of you and how lenient they are willing to be during times like this will help you figure out how to juggle work, religion, and several gods knocking on your doorstep. And using the communication listed above is key in figuring out how to make all of these relationships work all at once.

Whenever you find yourself in a pickle with the gods, I recommend that everyone learn to re-frame the situation as if you were both humans, and see if that makes it easier to figure out how to handle things. Because in many ways, the rules that apply to human relationships are equally relevant to non-physical relationships. Learning how one can be applied to the other can definitely make navigating the murky waters of deity-devotee relations much easier.

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The Good Earth

Astral bodies are incredibly vast. They can contain worlds and universes within them. You could spend an entire lifetime inside of some bodies and never see everything within. Get lost within a body, and you may never get out again.

Astral bodies can also contain relics of previous existences within them, the same way that we sometimes stumble across old ruins in the dirt.

I’ve seen it said that human bodies are like a sort of repository or record of everything you experience. And that the records may not contain only information about yourself, but of your predecessors and ancestors, too. I find this interesting, because astral bodies can be like that as well. But instead of keeping the information for only one lifetime, the body is storing away information from multiple lifetimes that exist along a single soul line within. So the same way that my human body stores information about my own existence here on earth, as well as genetic information from my parents and their parents, etc., my astral body contains information about earth bound me, and all of the other versions of myself running around on the astral as well as predecessors and previous incarnations of myself. Because astral bodies are vast.

Stumbling across one of these relics, one of these recordings of the past is incredibly interesting. I just so happened across one in the form of dirt one evening. But this wasn’t just any dirt. This was like dirt and glitter went out for a night on the town and had a baby. It was unlike any dirt I’d ever seen here on earth.

When I asked about this dirt, I was told that I was standing on a corpse. Beneath my feet lay the remains of a previous existence, a previous life form. I’m not entirely sure what this previous life form was or what it looked like, or even how it met its end. All I know is that the corpse that this dirt represented laid the foundations for new life to grow. Like plants springing out of the ground, or crops sprouting out of Osiris’ back, this dirt has given the nutrients needed to create new life.

As it turns out, the man I was walking with was one of the many end products of this fertile soil. And as it also turns out, this man was not very fond of his soul line’s predecessor, the entity that was now embodied by this soil. He and I had been working for months now to try and figure out how to fix some of the problems he was experiencing, and the origins for most of them lie in the soil we were walking upon.

It is very difficult to heal when you carry wounds and scars from your predecessors. I have a hard time healing because I still carry scars and wounds from my parents- my mortal predecessors. And my parents carry scars that were given to them from their parents, their mortal predecessors. Based off of the many discussions I’ve had about Akhu with fellow Kemetics, it is very apparent to me that having less than ideal family lineage is par for the course anymore. So many of us don’t feel secure in giving our ancestors the time of day because they were not very good people. It is challenging to build up any sort of solace or acceptance if it hinges upon people that have hurt you- blood related or not.

This is also true, I think, if the horrible predecessor is yourself.

Ever look back at things you said or did in the past and thought “Wow I was an asshole”? Ever learn that you’ve got really bad habits that need to go away, and that those habits have hurt people really badly? Maybe you’re one of those parents in the paragraph above, and you wake up one morning and realize you wrecked your kids for life. What do you do then?

That is the situation me and my companion found ourselves in. For this dirt that he walked upon was nothing more than remnants of himself. The predecessor that he hated so much was a previous incarnation of himself. And many of the reasons the work we had been doing was not sticking was because he couldn’t get over his own past, his own previous failings.

It sucks to wake up one day and realize you’ve been a horrible person. It sucks to wake up one day and realize that you’ve hurt or possibly ruined people. It sucks to know that you’ve fed into oppressive systems or perpetuated someone else’s pain and suffering.

It sucks to wake up one day and realize you’ve been a big bag of floppy dicks. That you’ve broken the main rule of Kemeticism.

I have struggled with this over the years in many formats. There have been times when I realize that I have been horrible to other people and have hurt them and I had to figure out what to do about it. There have also been times when I have been asked to help heal someone in the Unseen who has caused me pain in the past as well. It’s hard to help someone heal when you can’t overcome the pain that they caused you. It’s hard to help someone accept their own past mistakes if you yourself can’t even accept what they have done.

Life is messy like that, and in my short time both here in the physical as well as the Unseen, I can tell you that there are more people who have screwed up and hurt others than not. If you have been a bag of dicks, I can assure you you’re not alone in it.

Something else I’ve learned during my stint here is that just because you were a bag of dicks before doesn’t mean you have to be a bag of dicks now. Just because you screwed up in the past doesn’t mean that you are condemned to be horrible forever. Sometimes your old horrible self can become useful, fertile soil to create a new you, if you know what you’re doing. I say this because who better to teach others the pitfalls of falling into certain habits than someone who has had those habits themselves?

If you look back over your past and can see how you fell into the habits, situations, and destructive patterns that you did- it’s much easier to show other people what to look out for, what things to avoid, what things to do better. Because you’ve been there and you know the ins and outs of the behaviour, it’s easier for you to draw a sort of “map” to help others get out, too.

I try to tell the man that I am walking with this. I try to reassure him that just because he was prone to bad behaviour in the past doesn’t mean that he is always doomed to repeat that behaviour. I try to tell him that he can learn from his past and better himself, that he needn’t be chained to who he was. Every moment is Zep Tepi. Every moment is a time to start over and recommit yourself anew to whatever path you choose. This fertile soil that we walk upon could very well serve as the foundations for him to become someone better than he once was.

And the truth is, we are all this way. We are all our own cache of fertile soil that we can grow from. We are all able to become more than what we were, whenever we so choose to plant the seeds of change within ourselves. Even if you’ve screwed up or done things you regret, you can always choose to do better. Never give up on yourself. Investing in yourself is the best investment that you can ever make, and it is an investment that we should all be making regularly.

Do not deny yourself your new beginning.

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Devotees are Kinda Like Trees

I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but in Arizona trees require a lot of pruning. Our trees are not known for growing very tall, but instead seem to prefer to grow out very wide and relatively low to the ground. This method of growth seems to cause our trees to be somewhat unstable as certain branches continue to sprawl out instead of us, causing issues with balance and weight. When one of these branches becomes too heavy, or when a good monsoon storm comes through, it’s pretty common for branches to fall down, or for branches to require cutting for the tree’s overall health.

Whenever I’ve seen a tree gets its branches cut, I often wonder to myself “does the tree feel that? does it feel any pain from the branch being cut? are we cruel for removing this tree’s branch?” And often these musings wander further into “well even if the tree does feel pain, the branch will grow back in time, and isn’t removing one branch worthwhile to make the tree stronger- even if removal is a bit painful?”

The more I thought about removing tree branches, the more I was reminded of painful shadow work that deities make devotees go through. And ultimately, I came to the conclusion that we are all like trees.

Think about it. A lot of pagans that I’ve talked to tell me that the gods often have ‘homework’ for them to do that involves self-improvement. Or you may start to participate in a religion, and a deity shows up and says “you need to fix this and this and this”. Often times, these changes and fixes are painful or difficult to achieve, and we get upset, angry or hurt when we have to go through the process, even if it’s ultimately in our best interest. I’m also sure that there are times when we go through these changes and think that we can’t handle the pain or strife of our current situation. We look at the gods and believe that they are asking too much of us, or perhaps wonder why they think we’re even capable of handling this amount of pressure or stress.

What if the gods look at us and see a tree? And they see some aspect of our lives that are not good for us. That perhaps we put too much energy into a particular branch, and it’s getting heavy and should be pruned before it damages the trunk of the tree. Perhaps when they are asking us to make these large or difficult changes in our lives, they are looking at it the same way that a gardener might- as though they are pruning us, and helping us to grow into more stable beings that will grow better with certain branches removed. While cutting the branch may hurt us, they know that we’ll survive the experience, and that we’ll develop more branches in other places- even if we don’t necessarily see it or believe them.

Now I think I should add the mandatory disclaimer that not all gods are the best gardeners, and it is possible to cut branches in ways that can actually stunt the tree’s growth. So it is important to keep some level of discernment when a deity asks you to make large or uncomfortable changes in your life (if they ask at all, because some won’t). However, viewing shadow work through the lens of trees, nature and growth has allowed me to be more tolerant and patient with difficult shadow work and changes that gods might ask of me. And the more that I watch the trees that got destroyed during this year’s storms, the more I realize that trees are resilient. There are trees around my location that fell over and were cut down to their base- and yet they are starting to grow back. Even in apparent death, there can be life.

Many of us probably don’t feel strong enough. During difficult times and changes, we might feel as thought we are going to collapse under the pressure. That it’s too much and we simply can’t deal. And in more extreme situations, we might even feel as though we will snap as a tree might. However, remember that we reflect the natural world that we live in, and that you are like a tree, too. You are resilient. You are able to grow back, even when cut down to the very base.

One of the most powerful phrases I have ever used in my life is “I am capable.” And if a tree can come back from near death, so can I.

Have the gods ever asked you do to things that you don’t feel you can handle? How have you handled those situations? Does the idea of being pruned help you feel better about such situations?

 

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