Shaping and Shielding III: New Experiments

Much like my ability to see/perceive auras, this propensity has always ebbed and flowed with my practice. With my magical practice escalating over the last couple years, so too have these psychic senses grown. the last months, apparently, my senses have reached a point where school is getting toxic. I know most of the things I want to know—and sometimes more—but the headaches and the vicarious mood swings are starting to become a little too apparent.

Since recovering from my burnout, my primary shielding technique—when I chose to employ one—has revolved around different ideas of compression and displacement.  My long-time favorite technique basically involves treating my aura like a Hoberman Sphere.  It’s simple, effective against a surprising number of psychic “weather” conditions, and has few, if any, unintended consequences—chiefly, it can put off a bit of a “not worth your notice” vibe.  The downside is that it offers little in the way of direct defense and none in the way of preemptive offence, and it’s rather easy to forget about—left closed too long, I sometimes get the psychic equivalent of muscle cramps.

Most recently, I’ve been experimenting with layers.  A layer of windows, as discussed before, as armor against psychic weather and the evil eye.  Another layer, a bit deeper into the astral, of sensitive psuedopods to keep me aware of what’s going on.  It’s been mostly effective, but oddly leaves me feeling more cut-off from the rest of the world than I actually am, as well as seeming to put off a bit of an aloof and unapproachable air.  I’m trying to come up with a visualization that’s produces a warmer and friendlier sort of charismatic aura, maybe even incorporating that as its own layer “outside” or “in front of” the glass panes.  I’m also trying to figure out what it is about those particular visualizations that leave me feeling so cut off.

Recalling my youthful experiments, I’ve also tried reproducing my bad-anime-armor-style shields.  They make me feel like a badass … and ramp up my aggression by about ten percent.  They also have the interesting effect of limiting the field of view in my astral sight in accordance with the shape of the helmet I visualize.

The astute reader will have noticed a consistent pattern to my shielding strategy: they are all rooted in visualization and imagery.  Although I understand that other magicians code instructions into their shields, keeping out “negative” or “unwanted” energies … in this, at least, I cannot form anything for which I cannot picture a shape, color, and texture.  I can’t form an image of a net that knows what I want to keep away and what to let through: I don’t know what that looks like.  Aradia can do it—you should see the mad shit she can code into personal or house wards—but I don’t have the knack.  There are, of course, those who say that this limit is self-imposed.  I won’t even argue.  Self-imposed limits are just as real as those imposed from the outside.  I’ll overcome it eventually: it’s really just a matter of creativity, which is one thing I have no shortage of … just occasional bouts of (sometimes long-running) blockage.

In the meantime, I’m also looking to experiment with sigilizing personal wards and charging talismans.  For a long time, I disdained that absurdly obvious and effective tactic as “too easy” or “a crutch”.  (Y’all may have picked up that I have had, and still struggle against, a tendency to be an unmitigated arrogant ass.)  This is bullshit.  I’m a goddamn tool using monkey!  Let’s use some goddamn tools.

It’s been a couple years since I’ve been inspired to go so far back to basics.

Disorder and a Detour Through Nostalgiaville

projectnullSomething about this experiment in Chaos Magick has gotten me thinking about the old days.  Hence the Timeline overhaul and all the post about my teenage years.  I’ll warn you now: there may be more of that coming, though on different subjects.

Aside from continuing my daily banishing, most of my work this week has consisted of the shielding experiments which sent me down memory lane, which I’ll talk about in detail tomorrow.

Friday night, I began another round of mask-making.  In accordance with the season, I was making another Death mask, which I hoped to sell for enough to reup my absinthe supply in time for Samhain.  Sadly, the clay wasn’t quite the right consistency, and shattered as it dried.  Hopefully I will have time to try again sometime this week.

I also fired a shoal of sigils Friday night.  I’m not gonna lie: this was some seriously low-brow shit.  The sort of thing that people get into fights about whether or not it’s beneath a magician’s dignity to do, and which, if approached from the wrong angle, could even be an ethical problem.  Yeah, that’s right: I’m using magic to help me get laid.  Go ahead, judge me.  That’s fair.

Divining before hand, it was almost an unqualified green light.  But … two IMG_5571potential problems came up. In the “coming in” position of the reading was XIII Death, last seen in my monthly reading in the 7th House; a more cautious person might have taken that as a sign not to cast.  Then, 7S “Futility” and I the Magus sat together in the “final outcome” position.  It seems likely that this indicates that, despite my best efforts, success in this arena will constitute a distraction from my school work.

Speaking of distractions from my school work: although the last week has been light enough for me to write this barrage of posts, things are going to get busy again after midterm.  The timeline I established for Project Null was predicated on last semester’s workload.  This semester’s load is much greater, and while I will strive to keep to that original schedule … well, school always has to come first.

Ironically, as I do an increasing amount of magical work every day, my meditation has fallen off completely.  Sadly, time spent staring at people’s auras in the cafeteria or out and about don’t count.

I have been able to remember my dreams upon waking only a few mornings, which is probably largely attributable to the sleeping teas I’ve been relying on for the last two weeks.  The fact that my dream recall has improved since I ran out of valerian tends to confirm this theory.  Most oddly, the night after charging the “get laid” sigil shoal, what do I dream about?  Why, the zombie apocalypse, of course, featuring a number of students from my school that I have never once spoken to.

I live a charmed life, mostly, but a strange one.

My plan for the coming week is to launch another shoal or two of sigils, finish reading Strategic Sorcery, and get back into Liber Null.  I’m also contemplating how to consciously interface my sigil magic with my Web of Influence for improved accuracy and timing.  So far, I’ve begun by tacking my fired sigils up with the maps that have become the visual representation of that web.  I will also continue brainstorming for what, precisely, I want the servitor I’m going to create as a part of this project to do; the general thought right now is bolster my house wards and serve as a guardian/attack dog.

Shaping and Shielding II: Learning Curve

My career with the KU Cauldron started almost a decade ago, now.  Back in those days, I thought I was hot shit.  I had a lot of raw talent, had seen and done a whole bunch of strange shit, and was generally more well-read than almost anyone there.  (The fact that I had mostly read Scott Cunningham, and Amber K, and DJ Conway, and a fuck-ton of weird shit on the internet makes that really fucking sad.)

My main problem with shielding had (and has always) been that I tend to build walls I can’t see out of without taking them down, and this was particularly true then.  So, increasingly, I didn’t bother: I was confident in my ability to detect and deal with threats.  When I did, though, I was always experimenting with textures and structures.

I tried great spheres of “glass” with windows that could be opened and closed at will; these worked very well, but still kept things out even when I wanted to let them in.  I tried textured cloaks to draw or distract attention from myself; these worked fabulously, particularly the latter, which could and often did render me near-invisible.  I turned my aura inside-out, squeezed it to a thin plane and turned it “sideways”, which was also produced an effect of near-invisibility—obviously, not literally invisible in either case, but pointedly unnoticed.  Most often, though, I would simply draw my aura back, condensing it until it fit well within my body, leaving only a “corona” at the original edge, which I would use as a shield.

It was during this period that I was really able to test my theories of energetic layers or frequencies of reality, slipping in and out of others awareness and around their shields during games of “tag”.  I cast circles by spinning webs of light into my Pentagram Ward, the likes of which they had never seen.  I was still going through my antagonistic agnostic phase, but I was able to conjure more energy and cast bigger circles by my will alone than they could with elemental and divine invocations.

In general, I postured and strutted about like you’d expect from a dude in his late teens and early twenties who went, basically overnight, from being a social pariah to being someone that others looked up to.  I got cocky and arrogant … and increasingly emotionally erratic.  I had only had two lovers at that point in my life: the first, a one-night-stand, “left” me for someone that would go on to abuse her; the second was also a singular arrangement, and though we became dear friends, she lived quite a ways away and we would not be lovers again for some years.  I was just coming out of the closet as bisexual, and being consistently rejected by everyone I took an interest in.  I had more friends and respect than I’d ever had before … but I was constantly thwarted in the one thing I wanted most.

To add injury to insult, these were also the days when the Cauldron’s resident vampire was starting to emerge.  In retrospect, I wonder how she contributed to the other problems: if, even when I was shielding, she could pierce and/or exhaust my defenses for longer than I’ve ever realized.  I’ve seen the wreckage left by vampire attacks.  That period of my life matches the profile.

All this drama culminated about the time that I started experiencing my first migraines.  When I recovered from all that madness, I really didn’t have any faith left in personal shields as method of defense, at least not from spiritual threats, and it would be years before I was tuned in enough again that I was even certain that my memories of psychic empathy weren’t the delusions of a lonely youth.

Shaping and Shielding I: The Old Days

The first person I ever met who shared my interest in magic and the occult was a young man I’ll call Shire.  We were sixteen, maybe fifteen years old when we our curiosity blossomed into outright experimentation.  I don’t remember, now, what his framework was, but I was already identifying as Pagan.  I came from a generic Protestant background, more informed by the Boy Scouts and television than by any churching; his mother was a hardcore White Light New Ager.  Our experiments began with the most basic elemental conjuration you can imagine: holding our hands over candles and bowls of tap water, trying to absorb and tune to Elemental Fire and Water.  He was more sensitive; I was better at focusing and projecting power.

Like most young men with an interest in the occult, especially in the Midwest of the early 1990s, I exhibited a certain paranoia:  I was convinced that there were spiritual forces arrayed against me, and I focused much of my time and attention on the creation of protection spells and psychic shields, and on developing ways to penetrate or circumvent them.  To this day, I remain one of the most skilled magicians I know (at least in meatspace) when it comes to building and dismantling magical protections.

My first shields were formed by visualizing myself in a suit of armor.  I don’t know where I got this idea.  This was before I owned any books beside the “Simonomicon”, so if I didn’t come up with it on my own, I must have gotten it off of one of the message boards I was frequenting in those days.  Because I was a serious geek back in the day, my armor looked something like this:

My earliest magical attacks were “swords” I held in my hands, soon replaced by a knife-like formation that I would throw.

Empathy and Other Psychic Senses

Half a lifetime ago, when I was but a wee faun of a mage, I had a number of talents that bore little resemblance or relevance to the sort of power I wanted as a practitioner of magic.  I had no access to whatever community elders there may have been, and the internet was not the deep well of knowledge it is today.(1)  It was my first year of high school and, although I cracked my first book on astrology at the age of thirteen, I had been practicing magic for no more than nine months—probably just since the beginning of the summer—with a repertoire limited to a stripped-out version of the LBRP which I had found on a message board, and about the most simple elemental energy-work you can imagine.  My chief occult interests at that time were circles of protection,  the sort of aura sight seen in bad martial arts anime, and astral projection.

I was totally unprepared for the full panorama of what psychic senses really feel like.  To this day, one of my very few crystal-clear memories of high school is of walking down the hall, looking at people and knowing things: “They’re really in love.”  “They’re not, but they’re having sex.”  “She’s cheating on him.”  These thoughts, these knowings, were alien to me: I didn’t know the students in question, and I would not discover my taste for gossip for another five or six years.  But I was absolutely certain of each and every thing that burst into my mind as I turned my gaze on each set of couples I passed on my way to English class.  The knowing, the invasion of those unwitting people’s privacy, terrified me.  I shoved the knowledge out of my head, and slammed the door closed behind it.

Over the course of the next two years, as I met more and more magical practitioners, several of them were the sort that identified as “empaths”.  In particular, one of my close friends and mentors.  The talent never seemed to bring him much pleasure, so at first I felt that I’d made the right call … but around the time I graduated high school, I started to wonder what I was missing. 

Medeia had a friend—an off-and-on student and lover—that we hung out with some times.  Hearing the above story, he offered to help me out.  Unfortunately, as it turned out, he was less than helpful.  His solution was brute force: we sat down and entered a trance; I let him into my head; he found the door, and kicked it in.  It hurt, and I panicked, and tried to slam it shut.  But the “door” was broken, now, and wouldn’t close all the way.

My practice was never very regular back in the day.  It certainly wasn’t founded on banishing or meditation.  If it had been, that shit might have just sorted itself out on its own, before I blew my circuit-breaker.  Even after that dramatic event, my psychic senses have always been a little wonky.  I have experienced “empathy” not as a knowledge of what others are feeling, but a direct, vicarious, and often unknowing and unwelcome experience of it: I walk into a room where someone’s in a bad mood, and suddenly so am I.  Of course I always picked up unpleasant emotions first, and often exclusively.  Living with Aradia, we frequently shared physical pains, and occasionally panic attacks.  And you, my dear readers, may recall some complaints about the psychic toxicity of the mall.

Shielding is the answer, of course.  It’s time for the next round of experiments to begin.

1 – These were the wild, early days of IRC and CompuServe.  HTML was shiny and new.  FTP was the preferred method of sharing files, and GOPHER was still relevant.  The internet was so small that there were published books of internet addresses, much like a Yellow Pages, and people used them.  I’ll stop now before I make anyone else feel even older than I already do typing out this footnote.

a View of the Sunrise Temple

I rebuilt my altar at the Full Moon.  It actually took the whole weekend before I was completely satisfied with the setup.


Behold: the magical engine of the Sunrise Temple.  The main altar is on the left, which you have seen several incarnations of before now.  To the immediate right of it are my jugs of mead, happily fermenting by the heater.  Beside that is a shelf of candles, stones, incense, and other supplies that don’t live in the kitchen cabinets.  Behind and above the shelves and mead are the maps which represent either my actual area of influence—that is, the places I have lived and where I still have friends and family—and the world I wish to influence with my political enchantments.  And finally, furthest right, is my newly erected seasonal altar; that table housed my chaos altar before it was pointed out to me that an altar dedicated to Chaos Magick is … almost oxymoronic.

IMG_5568Having taken down the Chaos altar, the Baphomet mask now lives atop my altar with Dionysus, Hephaestus, Rhea, and Athena.  ZG and SKM now share an alcove, and Sue—the spirit I work with more than any other—has one to herself.  The cubes on the side have been rearranged so that my money-drawing spell—which will soon be upgraded to a Jupiter cahsbox, a la Strategic Sorcery(1)—can have it’s own space.  The cube across from it is being converted into a home for all my sexual enchantments—the vast majority of which are targeted at staying child- and STI-free.  Below the financial altar are the ever-evolving house wards, and below the sex are my Tarot cards, visionary mask and pipe, and my black mirror.  My various planetary talismans have been relocated to the center base, with my God and Goddess figures elevated above them, along with my World Tree.  The flat workbench area is largely unaltered.

IMG_5567The first stirrings of my Samhain altar are very simple.  My death mask and sickle/knife, a picture of my dead grandmother and tokens of lost friends and loved ones.  I want to add gourds and pomegranates, but first I need to take care of my fruit fly problem.  Also poverty.

Rubble, Toil, and Trouble

projectnullWhen I said I hit a wall a couple weeks ago, it was even more true than I realized at the time.  The cold I was fighting weakened me slowly, until Tuesday when I was too sick to go to class.  When the fever passed, it was followed by a wave of insomnia and depression.  Although I’ve managed to largely maintain my banishing practice (about three days out of five), meditation not on the weekends has been sporadic at best, as has dream journaling.

In line with the depression has been the bouts of obsessive behavior: after buying and finally watching the Avengers when it came out on DVD last week, I proceeded to plow through the Marvel Ultimate reboot—an exceptionally dystopian vision, full of (and uncritical of) contempt for consent and creepy sex-negativity, which did nothing whatsoever for my state of mind.  I’ve dreamed about superheroes for at least three of the last seven nights.  I don’t think the Chaos Magic is in any way to blame for this round of madness and obsession: I think the length of time since I last saw my lovers, and my paucity of friends on campus, are owed full credit.

In the middle of all this madness, though, was some actual interesting and productive work.  I have begun experimenting with psychic shields again for the first time in years. I make very, very effective shields, but I hesitate to say that I’m “good” at it: when they’re up, it’s like living in a mad tyrant’s castle: nothing gets in, nothing gets out … even if it probably ought to. But the escalating magic of the last couple years has re-opened psychic senses that I don’t want to loose again, either through atrophy or burn-out, and re-learning effective shielding has become an imperative. That’s a post in and of itself.

This weekend, I honored the Full Moon by completely disassembling and cleaning my altars and by putting them back together in a slightly more effective arrangement.  I started two batches of mead.  And I have successfully incorporated underworld journeys into two Esbats in a row, now, culminating in a journey into the very strange places opened up in my Inner Temple by my self-initiation into the Chaos Current.  No, that wasn’t what I was trying to do there, exactly, but … that’s basically what it amounted to.  That, too, deserves a post unto itself.

After firing off a few rounds of sigils, things in my life are starting to get moving.  I need to keep at it: exercising my will and manifesting the world I want.  A lot of the specific desires have not yet manifested fully, but they’re complex and delicate this time, and I’m not in a hurry.  I can see things working and that’s good enough for me.  Fuller reports will become available as they manifest.

All this has put me a little behind on my original schedule, and it’s time for me to start in on Liber Lux and Nox if I’m to have any chance of being even half done by the end of October.  The madness and illness, though, are not actually to blame for that tardiness.  Instead, they share a common cause: I’ve overextended myself a bit this semester.  I’ve almost got a handle on the work load, and I should be okay by the time I’m done with Midterms, but … well, I’ve already complained about that shit enough, here and elsewhere.  Unfortunately, everything has to take a back seat to my classes.