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Edge Effect

As I’ve been learning about permaculture, I have found that many of the concepts presented often line up with aspects of Kemeticism. There is one section that discusses the idea of “patterns,” which is a sort of self-contained entity that often exists inside of another system that is often its own kind of pattern. And because of the nature of these patterns, you can often see similarities that unite many patterns in unique ways.

For instance, as a person, I am made up of cells, each of which contains several patterns or similarities. I am self-contained, and yet I exist inside of an even larger pattern — a desert. And that desert is made up of its own components, each made up of their own patterns, and all of these entities is constantly interacting with the other entities and patterns around them. To take it a step further, this desert sits inside of a country, which is in many respects its own pattern that interacts with other counties (aka other patterns.)

The author then goes on to discuss how the boundary between patterns and systems is an area where events love to occur, simply by the fact that two separate “things” are being forced to interact together. This creates a space that is nothing but an overlap between two systems, and yet is a system unto itself. As described in the book: “Special physical, social, or chemical conditions exist on the boundary, because of the reaction between the adjacent media. As all boundary conditions have some fuzzy depth, they constitute a third media, the media of the boundary zone itself.” Because of this, boundaries are considered to be species-rich and usually have more resources available. Put another way, it’s a liminal space.

For example, where a forest meets a pond, there is a border where you’ve got both land and water. Because both ecosystems are represented in this singular area, you’re going to have a more complex system that combines both. “At interfaces, species of both systems can exist, and in many cases the boundary also supports its own species.” He calls this concept the Edge Effect.

Due to how special boundaries are and how beneficial they can be to an ecosystem, the author instructs the designer to create as many boundaries as possible. This way, you are increasing the amount of diversity and resources available. And while this was originally created for a natural/outdoor space, I personally think that it can apply to our own lives in many ways.

I’m sure to some extent, many of you are scratching your head (as I certainly am on my medicated reread of this post) as to what boundary interaction has to do with anything beyond agriculture. What I’m trying to suggest is the idea that if you consider the personal boundary that is your self, and if you make your boundary interact with lots of other boundaries, you might see an increase of resources or benefits within your life.

Put another way that is specific to my genre: I question that if you are struggling with interacting with the Unseen or its inhabitants (which live on the other side of a very thick boundary) that by going out and either increasing the amount of times you attempt to interact with the Unseen or their structures (aka, religious materials, rites, rituals, etc.) or by going out and having new experiences in general, that you might have an uptick in ability to interact with the Unseen.

First of all, I’d like to say that this concept isn’t new or original by any means. Therapists suggest it to depressed people. Life coaches suggest it to CEOs and creative types. If any of you watch Steven Universe, you might even recognize this concept already:

 

Though from a permaculture standpoint, it’s less about being random, and more about increased frequency of interaction.

This increased interaction can happen any number of ways, mind you. You could attempt to increase the amount of times you try to interact with the gods or the Unseen, and see if that helps you to get a better feel for them or have more interactions with them. It stands to reason that by doing more of a thing, you’re going to increase your chances of success at it, and rites and rituals are no different. Several authors have talked about the idea that by doing rituals in the same way over and over again — whether it be years or generations, that it helps to build up a sort of “Unseen Highway” that you can tap into and touch some deeper meaning or energy from those who came before. And while I can’t say that I’ve ever somehow stumbled upon some sort of arcane, unknown knowledge by doing rituals, it doesn’t change the fact that by doing, you’re genuinely increasing the likelihood that you’re going to have an interaction with those you are dedicating your time to.

But I would also like to posit the idea that increasing your interactions with other experiences in general could also help in this matter — even if the experiences aren’t directly related to your religious practice.

The main reason behind why is the simple fact that experiencing new things changes our brains. Simply by actively engaging with something, you are causing your brain to change, and those changes can lead to new and unexpected places. This is partially why its not unheard of for therapists to recommend those with mental illness get out and do something — because it’s going to force you and your “boundary” to interact wit others and their “boundaries” and those interactions can improve mental health, even if you’re not entirely thrilled to be doing stuff.

I think that this is also why so many of us recommend reading books or doing things that make you think about the gods/religion during fallow periods — because it allows your brain to learn new things, and make new connections. And that can not only refuel our desire for practice, but it can also lead to an increase in participation or interactions within a practice.

Have you ever considered making “outings” a part of your religious practice? Have you ever noticed an improvement in mood or creativity after a break from daily pattern? If you could use this method, what sorts of experiences would you want to explore or try?

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On Making Entities Smaller

Recently there was a post that circulated on my dash that was called “Making the gods smaller?” I didn’t read it and I don’t know anything about what the post entailed, which is why I haven’t linked to it here. It played absolutely no role in this post except that seeing the title got me thinking about what it means to make gods, or other entities, smaller, and how that affects a relationship with them.

Working through all of my crap over on the astral has given me the opportunity to see entities of many scopes and sizes. The variety of what I saw, and how each of these entities interacted with someone such as myself, is largely what skewed my views of what we call “gods,” because I found that many of the entities I encountered were just as big and powerful as our gods, and yet were not called as such. It also taught me that size and power aren’t always directly related, and are usually not static.

The more I mulled on it, the more that I decided that for me, when it comes to an entity’s size, most of us (physical and non-physical entities alike) are All Encompassing, and incredibly small and shallow all at the same time. Allow me to attempt to explain.

I think one of the easiest ways for me to explain this is to use my own experience with myself as an example. As you all know, I am a human stuck on this planet just like the rest of you. However, when I travel in the astral, I can connect with other parts of myself. Some of these parts are very “small” and contained in the same way that my human self is. However, there are times when I will come across parts of myself that are vast and feel very “big” in comparison to who and what I am here on earth.

On the surface, the “bigger” parts of myself may still look very much like the smaller parts. We take up the same amount of space physically, and the representations of choice tend to look more or less the same. So it behooves me to say that on a visual level, you’d never know I was smaller, that she was bigger; though you may guess we are the same in some way or another.

I know that most people seem to look at “making entities smaller” as a sort of bad thing, as though becoming smaller and more human is some awful horrible act. But the truth of the matter is that it does have its place, its benefits. When you talk to the larger form of myself, you’ll note that she behaves differently. She has different priorities and different ideas on how to handle things. In many ways, she’s colder, more calloused, less understanding, and can seem like she doesn’t care about the suffering of anyone or anything. I’ve found that many times “larger” entities are so busy looking at the bigger picture that they forget that the entities they’re sacrificing are living, breathing things with their own autonomy. They’re so busy looking at how everything is going to “come together” that they can become very much the mindset “you have to break eggs to make an omelet.” As though living beings are just pieces on a chess board. A means to an end.

Sometimes those traits are useful. Sometimes you need someone who is capable of seeing the big picture, of not getting caught up on those details. In order for many cycles to complete, you’ve got to sacrifice some things. The same way that none of us would be alive if not for the death of other living things. It makes sense that we sometimes need someone Big to carry out bigger things.

However, those traits aren’t always useful. When I and my partner were first brought into a series of events over on the astral, it seems as though we were both fairly “large” in comparison to humans. However, in order to be able to get out of that situation, we desperately needed to find a way to be smaller. There are certain benefits to understanding life on a physical level. There are certain traits you pick up as you become reduced, as you become more humble. There are certain things you just can’t do when you’re so large.

I believe this can be true for our gods, too. That there is a benefit to being reduced in some capacity. They can learn new skills and traits. They can relate to their devotees in new ways. They can develop a better understanding of our needs, our existence, and incorporate that into their own activities. This can, in turn, effect how things happen on the Duat. They may be better able to relate to the residents of the Duat, to be able to better govern them or help them in their needs.

In many ways, I believe that being able to be both Large and Small at the same time is beneficial. If you’re a fully-connected entity that is tapped into both ends of the spectrum, you can shift your focus from large to small, from big picture to small detail. You can see how to best get from point A to point B (large) while also understanding that minimizing the sacrifice of smaller entities needs to remain a priority (small) — because you’ve been there, you’ve seen it, and you understand that smaller entities matter, too. You make yourself more well-rounded and connected to the world at large.

In a way, a dare say that being able to make yourself smaller makes you bigger — because you can reach things you couldn’t before.

Being made smaller doesn’t mean that you can no longer access your larger self ever again (though its possible to be blocked in your ability to do so.) If anything, it just means you’re able to tap into both, and utilize the skills and knowledge of both.

At least, that’s how I’ve come to understand it.

I think the thing I wish to know most is why is everyone so afraid of coming to meet the smaller parts of the entities we interact with? What is it about being “small” that is so detestable?

 

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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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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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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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Loss

For years I couldn’t shake the feeling that once upon a time, a very very long time ago, I was a part of something that had fallen apart. I knew in my mind that things went south in a bad way, and I knew that I needed to find a way to fix it no matter what the cost. It took years for me to tease out some of the details of what might be pulling at my heart strings even from a young age. And even now, I am still trying to figure these pieces out so that I can put them in their proper places so that the group of people I am with can finally move forward and no longer be held in an eternal holding pattern.

The years before I figured out what exactly had gone so wrong, I always had this person in my mind that always gave me an overwhelming sense of loss. I couldn’t place who it was for many years, but once I did, it was like everything became hyper-focused. I was acutely aware of this person, and even more so, acutely aware of the pain and hole that they had left behind. This person was dead at the time that I learned of them, and I never expected to see them again. Each downfall has casualties. This was mine to bear.

I kept vigil for him for years. I didn’t really know what else to do, other than to keep the memory alive within me. I allowed the pain to fuel my actions, to push me to keep moving forward. It’s possible that you could say that the loss drove me to keep trying to fix what had gone awry. I had this person that I had loved that I needed to fix things for. Even if he wasn’t around to enjoy the end results, I was moved to right the wrongs that he (and others) had suffered all those years ago.

I spent so many years fixated on him that it really took me off guard when K-Pop showed up less than a month after I broke out and said we had been a “thing” several times over. I had spent all of this time keeping a light for this other person that I never even took a moment to consider if I had ever had other people in my previous lifetimes beyond him. It’s weird to say that, though, given that I had never really met the man that I was so attached to. In a way, I guess you could compare it to being consumed by a ghost or a memory, and I had been swallowed entirely.

As I began to move forward and explore the past so that I could figure out the future, I began to see wisps of him everywhere. There were times when he almost felt alive again. There were moments when it felt like we had found a tiny little bubble of the past, and we could sit in it for a while and pretend that things were okay still. But always, that bubble would disappear, and I would be left with the gaping hole that I was in before. I’ve said many times that death is not straight forward on the astral. Things rarely die permanently, and even when someone is confirmed dead, there are still ways that you can see them and reach out to them, albeit briefly. Much like dreaming of someone who is now gone from this world, you can find small pockets of reprieve from the reality of the situation. But much like that dream, once the reprieve is over, the pain is often so much greater for having cheated the system.

I tracked down every thread I could regarding this man. I hunted down pieces and stories and lies trying to find him. For a glimmer of a moment, it looked like I might have managed to reset enough pieces that they could converge to rebirth him. Both I and my partner were both nervously hopeful that maybe we had found a loophole that would allow us to fix this story once and for all.

And for a while we did. He was around and in my life, but you could tell that his smile was a thin veneer. You could tell that everyone in the house knew that the inevitable was coming. We all knew it, but never wanted to say it.

The truth of the matter is that you can’t always fix things. Sometimes you can fix them, but not for another 83856 years. The timing of things can not be overstated enough.

What’s worse is that the timing was right. It was right for bringing him back so that we could send him off again. There are many reasons for this, but I won’t go into them here. Just know that sometimes pain is the point. Sometimes you only need a spark to cause everything to set on fire. Sometimes short stints are the point, as is the pain that follows. And I can’t ever forget with him that the ends have always justified the means.

We struggled to keep him around, to battle whatever illness had befallen him. To this day I can’t ascertain if he was sick from the beginning, or if something happened somewhere along the way. He was never very upfront with me about what was going on behind that thin veneer he had, and for all I know, he showed up knowing that it would be very short-lived and he neglected to tell me for reasons. I worked as hard as I could to fix everything, to do right by the person I had waited for for so many years, but it was for naught. It was in late winter when he finally fell and light filled the sky. I thought that maybe it was over then, that I could put the wounds to rest, but I was wrong.

Entities can die several deaths in the Unseen that culminates in one final “real” death (or to use the “reset” metaphor above, you have numerous soft resets that culminate in a hard reset). In many ways, it’s like a series of false starts, except these are more like false endings. After I was told that our attempts were not working, and that we’d have to send him off, I was sad, but I understood why it needed to be done, and I accepted it for what it was. It hurt, but for some reason it was something that was painless enough that I could ignore it most of the time. However, I soon found myself being haunted by his memory. There were many times when I’d go Over There and find myself with parts of him. I had visions of the past, flickers of memories that careened across my vision. There were dreams and songs. Things that popped up on the internet. For someone who was supposedly dead, his memory antagonized me way more after his “death” than at any other point in time in my life.

There is a lot to be learned about death and loss in the Unseen. It’s not nearly as straightforward as human loss, and sometimes that is a blessing and sometimes that is a curse. In the Seen, when someone dies, that’s it. You can’t magic them back to life. You can’t go back in time to stop them from dieing. Once they are gone, they are gone. And the only thing you’ll ever have left is their memory and their stuff. This is good in that it allows for closure. You know what has happened, and there is no denying that. The person is gone and they are never going to come back.

The Unseen is less straightforward. You can lose someone, and then they come back later. It’s not uncommon for people to die and then return weeks or months later as though they never left. You can pull strings and work magix and bend time to change things. There is always this hope that people may return somehow, or that you’ll manage to find the one magic method to bring them back to you. This is good in that you can sometimes bring people back permanently- I have done this a few times with some success. But the downside to this is that you never really get closure. You are always looking over your shoulder and giving yourself a false sense of hope that somehow you’ll figure it out, even if the logical part of your brain knows you’re in denial about a situation.

Even though I knew that the writing was on the wall yet again, I still wondered if maybe I could find a way out of this. The memories plagued me for months, and I felt like I was always going to be haunted by this person. Who knows, maybe I wanted to be haunted, maybe he stuck around because I couldn’t let go. Maybe he couldn’t let go. Maybe we were both to blame. What’s worse is that I had another menz who was supposed to be helping me fix this situation, and he was not fairing well in the process. I began to worry that he’d be taken out, too.

But one evening I was sitting at home working, and suddenly the man that I had been honoring for all of these years showed up. But I knew that this time was different. He was completely aware and “with it” that night in a way that I hadn’t seen in months. I’ve heard stories of people who spend days or weeks in comas or slightly deluded states, only to wake up and be completely cognizant and aware right before they die. This was a moment like that.

He came to me and told me the inevitable. The thing that I knew had been coming from day one. The truth that has always been true between us. The fate that we have been working to unravel so that we no longer have to bear it. He came and told me what everyone in my house already knew to be fact.

The thing is, the fact that you know what is coming doesn’t make it hurt any less. There is a relief in knowing that the end has finally come (inasmuch as any real “ending” happens in the Unseen), but let me assure you that that doesn’t make the end any less difficult.

I’ve found that coping with death in the Unseen is very different from handling the death of a physical person. With a physical person, I always found that it was much easier to really recognize that someone or something is gone. You no longer see the person/animal/entity anymore. There is a very visible hole where that person used to be, and it’s so much plainer to you that someone is gone.

When an Unseen entity dies, it feels so much more abstract to me. There is this deadening, this emptiness, but you can’t really place where. Visually, nothing is different. Your house is as it always was. No one around you in the physical is mourning. No one recognizes that anything is amiss, and I personally always feel guilty for mourning someone from the Unseen in the physical. It’s one of those huge downsides to being close to anyone in the Unseen- if they die, no one knows. And if you tell people “I am sad because my non-physical friend died yesterday”, people will think you’re weird or possibly need to see a mental health professional. In many ways, I feel like mourning a non-physical entity is a lot like mourning a character from a story. That person may have had an impact on you, and so their death has left an impact on you. But the world doesn’t stop for it, and if you talk about it, people get uncomfortable really quickly.

In many ways it’s a lot less visceral and due to the lack of surrounding visible cues, you’ll probably feel kind of stupid for feeling sad. In many ways, it’s like this general malaise hangs over you, and you can’t place it’s origin and you can’t figure out how to fix it. You know something is missing and something isn’t right, but hell if you can pinpoint exactly where or what it is, let alone what to do with it.

Death is not beautiful. It’s messy and painful and generally leaves things in a state of disorder. Loss is painful, whether it’s on the physical plane or the non-physical plane. And it is equally messy as you try and figure out what to do with yourself now that there is a gaping hole in your existence. I have no beautiful succinct ending for this post. I have no final paragraph to sum up all of the learning points (hahaha what learning points). I have nothing to show except 2100 words about someone that none of you ever knew, and a mess on my metaphorical floor.

This is what it’s like when you look behind the curtain at TTR. This is what it’s like to live the dream.

 
 

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