When I was learning how to be a spirit-worker and also (for years before that) learning how to function as a fairly competent magus, I was warned early on about reaction headaches and/or reaction sickness. This, I was told, is what happens when you seriously overwork your psi-gifts, work for too long handling energy or using those gifts – which are like muscles that can be strengthened or not—or get hit by too much energy to ground effectively, etc. etc. I kind of filed the information and thought, “yeah, that won’t happen to me.” Now mind you, I was in my early twenties and like most people in their early twenties, an idiot. Lol. How we all live past twenty-five, I’ll never understand. Over time, of course, I did experience the occasional reaction headache and even sickness a time or two and learned techniques for effectively dealing with it. It’s been a very long time since I got hit with full out reaction sickness. Then there was this past Saturday.
On Saturday, I went with my friend Tove to a wine and painting event. All the proceeds were going to support the Ukraine so I was happy to attend. There were a number of Ukrainians present who had just come to the US within the last two months and who didn’t have much English. I have only a smattering of Russian and Ukrainian. Usually in cases like this, I un-shield a bit and slip into the outer edges of one’s mind, so I can catch the images and intent behind their words. Then I can understand without having to rely on a translator though my ability to respond is limited (the woman I spent the most time chatting with was lovely and understood English but didn’t speak it – much like me with Russian). It’s a fairly intensive use of one of my psi-gifts, but I’ve done it before and it really, really helps with on-the-spot translation. Great. I did this for five hours. (Every so often, Tove would translate for me, but she saw that I was getting via my technique and basic knowledge of the languages in question, about 80% of the conversation around me. She was so tired by the end of it, she tried to translate English for me once, which had us both laughing when I looked at her and said, “I think I got the English down.” It was fun).
I haven’t used this technique in ten years maybe longer. I don’t think I’ve ever used it for five straight hours. I’m just coming off being quite ill (I got the thing that I won’t name and while I recovered quickly, I find that it’s left me rather tired, more so than usual, for longer than expected) and I had had a rather bad headache midafternoon. All of this is something that I should have evaluated and either not gone to the event, or simply let Tove constantly translate for me—which I didn’t do, because it she needed to network and do her own thing. By the time we left, I was already getting a bad reaction headache. I woke up the next morning with such bad reaction sickness I thought I was going to die (sorry haters. It takes more than that). I knew immediately what it was and turned the whole thing into a lesson for my assistant who has yet to experience the joy of full reaction sickness.
I took my migraine medication (which is awesome—I didn’t have that when I first started studying), a special tea that I use for such times (feverfew, oatstraw, skullcap), drank rehydration salts and also caffeine, because it helps with headaches. Given some of the symptoms of massive nausea I also drank half a bottle of Pepto-Bismol (for non-Americans, this is a nasty, pink over-the-counter medicine that helps with nausea and stomach issues). Normally, I’d have gone back to bed and slept it off, which is really the only true cure for this sort of thing. I couldn’t do that though because I had family visiting later that day – and I am thankfully experienced enough that I had myself together by the time they arrived. There’s something to be said for being old and well-trained. LOL.
While ideally one doesn’t put oneself in this situation, it is inevitable with active practice that at some point, a spirit worker or a magus is going to experience at the very least reaction headaches. Knowing what to do is as important as knowing how to prevent them. The latter one does by knowing one’s skill level and being aware of one’s physical state before, during, and after the Work. This, of course means taking care to get enough sleep, eat well, exercise which none of us do! We should though, especially before major workings. Care of the self is essential to competent work and especially to longevity.
If you’re in a situation and it’s too late for all this and you have gotten a reaction headache, take aspirin (I like Excedrin extra strength or Excedrin migraine), make sure you’re hydrated and go back to bed. The only thing you can do is sleep it off. Treat it like you would a regular migraine. Eat lightly when you wake, if you can keep food down – you may feel rather fragile for a day after—and don’t do any Work. It’s going to feel like the hangover from hell.
If you’ve really screwed yourself and it’s full reaction sickness, the same suggestions apply. Your best bet is to stay hydrated and sleep. The rest will help and, in a day, or so you should be back on your feet. I actually use rehydration salts, sometimes gatorade to rebalance electrolytes, and the three-herb tea I mention above. It helps before major workings to protein load, and often I’ll make it a point to eat sushi after serious workings—one of my colleagues was taught that the closer protein is to raw, the more energy one can take from it. My assistant says (as I read this to her) that after working she craves rare red meat. My husband is muttering about “the blood is the life.” LOL.
The important point here is that spirit-work and magic is WORK. It’s going to have physical consequences because you are using the body’s energy just like if you were doing manual labor. Take your vitamins and treat it all accordingly. We want to aim for longevity of practice and that means knowing how hard to push ourselves, for how long, when it’s necessary to go beyond those limits, and what to do after.
So, a friend just posted something that talks about his early magical training. He was taught that “magic can’t affect anyone who doesn’t give it permission, but that setting wards and putting up shields were a form of permission.” I don’t fault him for this; it’s what he was taught, but this teaching itself is not only flat out wrong, but it’s the type of bullshit that gets people hurt.
Properly worked, one doesn’t need to believe in magic any more than one needs to believe in a bullet for the aforementioned weapon to cause harm. Shields and wards are not “permission,” but a hard line in the sand, protections against the harm that others might work, a manifestation of the magician’s consent and will. They also help if one is gifted in keeping out excessive external stimuli. To say that shielding/warding gives permission for magic to work on you is like saying that if a woman takes self-defense classes and learns to use a firearm, she is opening herself up to rape and assault. It’s like expecting that you must understand how medicine works in order for antibiotics to be effective. Really? REALLY? Just take the fucking pill.
The only people who think that one needs to believe in magic or give permission for it to work are those who don’t understand how magic works, have no respect for the art, are utterly incompetent at it, are head blind, or those who don’t believe in evil – we shield and ward after all not just from magic but also from evil spirits of all sorts…OR it’s coming from those who don’t want you to have the proper protections to keep their own malefica out, those who want to keep you weak, to manipulate you, and to take advantage of you for their own power. Of course, it could be coming from weaklings afraid of power too—you know, the new age, prosperity gospel type who think the universe is a kind and loving hothouse created solely for their personal development– but either way, it’s a really dangerous level of delusion to walk into occult circles carrying, or, you know, the world in general.
Every autumn, my household cleans the ancestor room as thoroughly as possible. We empty out drawers, pull out furniture, dust, vacuum, discard offerings that may be lurking and put things in order for Yule. Having just finished this process for this year (and what a weight to have off one’s shoulders!), it brings to mind a few things I’d like to share.
Often, as a spiritual professional (be it priest, vitki, shaman, spirit worker, etc.) when one maintains a shrine, others will come and leave offerings at your personal shrines. Sometimes people are shy about doing it at their own and feel that such things have more power when left at the shrine of a priest or spirit worker. Be careful. Personal concerns work both ways. Clean your shrines often and carefully and respectfully dispose of offerings left by others. Do not allow your shrines or your home to become repositories for the personal concerns of others *through which they may work ill upon you*.
Be aware also of gifts given. Magically – and yes, as spirit worker and priest I very much believe in magic—right of maker always, ALWAYS takes precedence over right of owner. The exchange of money, especially when a contract or legal document is involved (as in buying a house) can nullify this to a large degree; however, beware gifts given. When the friendship sours, they can become conduits of malefica. I suggest donating them or burning them.
Here is a good article on personal concerns.
That is all.
Head on over to Numen Arts and read this powerful post on glamourbombing by Dver. This has been part of my practice for a couple of years now on and off and I’ve see how powerful it can be. It’s a way of opening doors, just a little, slipping through and bringing something of the Other back, then leaving a key, a tag, a marker that draws others into similar experience. Reset and course correct as I like to say. Anyway, the piece is really good and I recommend giving it a read.
Today marks the two year anniversary of my book:
🧿 Combatting the Evil Eye 🧿
The history of malocchio–the evil eye–crosses multiple cultures, and apotropaic charms and practices have persisted through to the modern day. Combatting the Evil Eye explores how to diagnose and treat this condition. It offers a range of traditional and not-so-traditional cures and a plethora of resources for this often overlooked but potentially devastating affliction.
Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2NPNy84
So many cultures have folk traditions revolving around warding off the evil eye that in 2018 it was added as a universal emoji icon: 🧿.
For my readers, what was your biggest take-away from the book?
For anyone interested in an autograph copy of Living Runes: Theory and Practice of Norse Divination, I have a very limited quantity available (only ten remaining) for purchase at the shop. So better act fast before they are all gone!
This is the ONLY place to get autographed copies short of a face-to-face interaction with me.
Today was a very frustrating day, for reasons that I’m about to go into. I’ve spent hours searching online for a dollhouse. There is a blessing charm for a home that I learned years ago, that involves a dollhouse and a bit of sympathetic magic. For all that it sounds simplistic, it is surprisingly organic, creative and enjoyable to work, and very, very difficult to break. I’ve been wanting to make one of these for friends of mine who just moved into their first home for some time now. I thought it would be simple (if somewhat expensive) to find the perfect dollhouse and get to work. I was so very wrong.
Now I had a dollhouse when I was a child. When I was seven or eight, my parents took me to a local craftsman’s shop, one who specialized in custom built dollhouses and I got one made to my specifications (within reason and my parents’ budget.). It’s only now that I’m an adult that I realize just what a gift that was. My parents never had much cash to burn. It was a rare indulgence. I loved that dollhouse though and it was my first introduction to world-building. I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that I learned to work magic through the medium of this structure. If I had children, I’d be absolutely sure they had the same opportunity to develop this type of spatial creativity. (Plus, it kept my overly curious ass out of trouble, which was no bad thing lol).
So, anyway, I’ve been collecting small miniatures that I planned to use in this charm for some time now so I figured it was high time I got the house and started putting it all together. It’s a type of hands-on magic I enjoy but rarely get to use. How hard could finding a dollhouse be? Well, holy shit. For one thing, 95% of the dollhouses I found were for kits. One even opined, “Have you always wanted to build your own house?” No fucker. I haven’t. This is what I pay craftsmen for. Die in a fire, thank you. (Though granted, had one the skill, making this type of thing from the ground up would be a very, very powerful addition to the overall charm). So that was annoying, but not what I found really upsetting and aggravating.
Almost all the finished houses I found (on specialty sites, etsy, ebay, etc.) were utter trash. They were cheap, poorly made, often garish, and ugly. They were, essentially, disposable. I’m not sure what bothered me more, the fact they were ugly or the fact they were poorly made. I’ve seen this with a particular relative’s children the first time I visited them: their toys were all mass-produced garbage. They treated it that way too and I realized not ever having something made with care and craft, these kids weren’t learning to take care of nice things. I wonder what their lives will be like as that attitude takes root and grows. Far better to have one thing well and properly made than a dozen pieces of trash.
I realized, talking with my husband and our housemate that part of what was being triggered in me was a series of Duergar related taboos I picked up from my adopted mother. My housemate, a Freya’s woman, was likewise triggered (not surprisingly since Freya has a strong connection to the Duergar and to good craftsmanship). As we were talking this out, I realized that buying shoddy, cheaply made items, mass-produced items, represented the destruction of individual livelihoods, of artisans, artists, and craftsmen. It breaks the essential relationships upon which proper, healthy communities should be built and it ingrains in us a lack of caring for the beauty around us. It takes away the pride in having something well made, making something well, and the ability of the crafter to take pride in his or her labor. There’s a huge difference between mass production and creation. No wonder I ended up having so many problems with this today. On top of that, it’s not enough to have something well made. It has to be the appropriate, proper item for a task too.
Trying to help me out, a friend of mine this morning found a lovely, hand-made dollhouse for me and brought it over. He’d found it on craigslist, a lovely Victorian cottage made in 1920 by a man for his daughter. It didn’t look like what I wanted (for this type of charm, it’s helpful for the house to look as close as possible to the actual environment that it’s to represent) but I figured it was hand-made and had been much loved and I might as well use it, even though my first, gut response had been, “Nooo that’s nice but not right for this.” I should have listened to my gut. Always, listen to your gut! Instead, I started spinning out the magic. Several hours later I was about ready to tear someone’s head off. I was aggravated, irritated, achy, and starting to get a bad headache, not a migraine, but the type of headache I get when magic is going awry. When my husband came in, we spoke about it and I realized that the house just wasn’t right so I took everything out of it, undid the charm, asked the ancestors for help and put things away. I’m still doing cleansings. Tomorrow, I’m probably going to see if my next-door neighbor, who has a small child, would like the house for her kid and then I’ll just give it to her. It’s a beautiful dollhouse, but just wasn’t right for my purposes.
I remember last year I went down the rabbit hole on youtube one day and ended up watching something like eight hours of a BBC show on the Edwardian Farm. Three archaeologists live like Edwardian farmers in a recreated village setting for a full year, following the rhythms of the seasons and introducing the viewer to what life was like in Edwardian England (they did a whole series of these and they’re awesome). One thing that struck me was how interconnected the entire village would have been. The baker gets yeast from the brewer, who gets xyz from the farmer, who relies on someone else for certain goods. It was an interconnected web of existence and interdependence. There was individuality and craftsmanship, a respect for well-made tools that honors the thing itself and the spirit of the thing. With the coming of industrialization (and eventually mass production) that web was broken. Look at our world today and one can easily see the results.
We learn as children how to move in our world through play. We learn to value and respect the connections we make, and to appreciate beauty and art, craftsmanship and care. If that is lacking our world can be a very uneasy, fractured place. If all we are ever exposed to is cheap garbage, what is that teaching us? Far better to support our local craftsmen or our community craftsmen when we can.
This is, I’m sure, no surprise to any cat owner. Lol. But I’ve been realizing the last few months, exactly how magical these little furry murderers can be. Lately, I’ve become fascinated by folktales and fairy tales where cats are, in some way, the heroes. This all started as my ancestor practices with my paternal, Lithuanian line deepened. Gabija, the Lithuanian Goddess of the hearth and fire, can take the form of a cat and many of my ancestors really seemed to like them. I started getting pushed to get a cat of my own, so my husband and I adopted a little old lady cat from a local shelter. That was eye opening.
I’ve noticed that she wards the house. Whenever there are jagged, miasmic, or negative energies about, she will be our first warning. Even before we pick up on anything, Elena (our cat) is alert and through her behavior gives us warning. When we are divining, she will come from wherever she’s at in the house, sit and watch without interfering with the mat, and when we’re done, she’ll wander off again. She also seems to help at managing the energy of the house. As I’ve been reading about the role of cats in folklore, Lithuanian and otherwise, my respect for the little creatures has skyrocketed. This is an animal I’ve always liked, but never really considered in terms of a working ally. So, I’m kind of shocked to find myself, as a vitki and spirit worker, thinking “cats are cool.” Lol. I’ve even seen friends’ felines engaging in behavior that to my eyes and senses looks an awful lot like prayer.
Cats are of course, associated with magic in much of the folklore I’ve been reading. They are clever and dangerous; they are also often protective. In ancient Egypt, they were sacred. In Japan, they are believed to bring luck and wealth into a dwelling. I think they do. Also, I firmly believe they bring out the best in people. I said recently, only half joking, that all diplomatic negotiations should take place in a room full of cats! When we respond to them, they make us better humans.
Finally, there are two movies about cats that I’d highly recommend. The first is a Turkish film called “Kedi” that traces five stray cats throughout their meanderings around Istanbul. It also shows the sweet and caring way random people respond to them. The second is “Cat Nation,” a documentary about the popularity of cats in Japan. It’s a beautiful example of animism in action at times.
I also recommend “The Cats of San Martino,” a short story by Ellen Steiber in the anthology “Black Heart, Ivory Bones.” It’s a re-imagining of an Italian folk-tale about the King of the Cats. I love this tale. There’s also the book “The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles” by Kij Johnson, a beautiful book that makes me wonder about the stories cats tell about themselves.
I’m still pondering this. In the meantime, those of you who have cats, tell me your magical tales. ^__^. And if you have any books or stories to recommend, feel free to post here.
One of my friends and students sent me the following story, which I found so relevant that I asked for the link which I now share with you here.
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Someone emailed a colleague of mine out of the blue with the following question (he shared it largely out of shock at the utter obliviousness of it all):
-” What does the shaman who horses (1) deities get in return for all the sacrifice, hard work & suffering they had to endure to become a shaman in the first place?… Can the shaman expect to be a highly skilled & powerful sorcerer whose (sic) able to bring about change in his life & this world through sorcery, after horsing deities for years? Or is it dependent on the relationship that is forged with the deity?”
The question is offensive on many levels and oblivious on many others, so much so that I was left quite literally speechless when my friend emailed me. (I think I said something to the effect of ‘I don’t know quite what to say here but you do get the best questions. Damn!’).(2)
Even writing this, I’m still pretty boggled by the question. First of all, what do you get? You get a job. You get the honor and privilege of serving the Gods, a particular privilege that most people never even conceive of let alone experience.
But more to the point, it’s not about us. A shaman provides service to the Gods and to the community. It’s not self-serving. No one in their right mind would want this job and yet, it is an honor and a privilege to be taken up in this way.
I just am so boggled by the incorrect attitude displayed in the email, not just to the idea of a shaman’s work being for personal empowerment, but the idea that we can use relationships with the Gods for personal greed. It is so incredibly wrong. If you ever wanted a primer on how not to approach the Holy Powers, this is it.
There are many ways to approach the Gods but first and foremost there is a foundational commonality on those that are appropriate and that commonality is respect. These are Holy Powers. They are the Movers and Shapers of the Cosmos. We were created to exist in right relationship with Them. They do not exist to pander to the worst of our instincts and desires.
Part of regaining right relationship with the Powers involves understanding that everything is not about us. We are not the super-center of the cosmos. The universe does not exist to cater to our whims and to stroke our egos.
So to answer this fool’s question, you get to be of service. You get to go to your grave knowing you did your part to restore right relationship communally with the Gods. You get to experience specific Deities more closely than can ever be imagined. That is both a grace and a blessing. No, you cannot, as a result of horsing (or anything else we do) expect to be “a highly skilled & powerful sorcerer” capable of bending the world to his will (and if you want to study magic, that too is a lifetime’s commitment and takes sacrifice). This is not a D&D game. And everything, everything is always dependent on the relationships we forge with our Gods, and those relationships that we nurture? They’re the reward for the work.
1. To horse a Deity is to carry that Deity via possession. It’s terminology drawn from the Afro-Caribbean traditions. The Deity “rides” the devotee as one might ride a horse.
2. I asked my colleague’s permission to share the question for this post.
Be sure to check out my other sites:
Wyrd Curiosities at Etsy
My academia.edu page
My amazon author page.
Walking the Worlds Journal
My art blog at Krasskova Creations
My blog about all things strange, weird and medieval.
And if you like what you see, consider becoming a sponsor at Patreon.