Of Music, Meatloaf and Magic

Last summer I spent a solid month doing the same spellwork to the same songs each day, to see what benefits I could get from associating an outside element with a specific piece of energywork. The best outcome was a song that basically throws up wards for me automatically when I play it, which is pretty cool.

I thought that was exciting, the way I felt energy flare up around me when the notes started up. It stirred a sense of something Project Protagonist-y, the memory of how I’d used to use music, how I still stumbled into using it sometimes but never seemed to be able to catalyze.

My understanding of the science is that nothing you hear later in life will never be as meaningful as the stuff you liked in high school because of the way your brain is developing at that point in time. I’m literally too old to listen to music now like I did then. So I wondered if perhaps I just couldn’t do that kind of magic the way I used to, where I was almost outside of myself as I sang and screamed and danced.

I sure as hell can’t dance like I used to, thank you bad knee and once-broken foot. Maybe, I wondered, you outgrow stuff that uses that kind of emotion and you have to find other ways to get it to work.

But last week on The Cauldron, while I was in the early throws of an awful stomach flu, Eastling asked about spiritual associations with albums (as opposed to individual songs) and I thought of a couple. All from high school, since who listens to albums since Napster and the shuffle function in WinAmp were invented, right?

And then I couldn’t get fucking Meatloaf out of my head.

Today I was finally feeling relatively humanoid again, so once the baby went to bed I found a playlist of Bat Out of Hell II and started it up. The extended opening of “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” started up, all glitched motorcycle revs and piano and it was like an electrical fucking shock.

If I managed to charge some songs by working with them daily for a month or two as a busy 35 year old dad and banker, well, it seems reasonable that the shit I lived and breathed in my teens would still be holding a charge twenty years later.

It’s not like I haven’t listened to things since I was a teenager. I have plenty of the stuff of my small town radio station upbringing tucked away with the rest of my MP3s, and I loved everything from Garth Brooks to U2 to Alanis Morrissette to Rancid.

I still do the occasional bit of old spellwork built on U2 songs, but… why am I not using this? I may not remember the original, precise uses of all of these songs, but that doesn’t mean I can’t explore the energy they still hold and figure out how to redeploy them. It’s the same principle as finding a wand in a treasure chest in D&D, right? You figure out what it does and then you get to work with it. And hey, I probably won’t fireball myself in the face with a Meatloaf song, so bonus!

On one hand, this was a terrible idea, because it’s 1am and I’ve gone through about 3/4 of Bat Out of Hell II and this was not at all the blog post I sat down to write and I am so awake. So awake. And I have to be at work early because of course I do.

On the other hand, I am super excited to see where I can go with this. Time to break out the flannels and hoodies (that I totally wear all the time anyway, because it’s always the 90s in Portland, that’s completely true) and get to work on some Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness spellwork.

Spirals

down sie went into the mountains, into the earth
deeper than sie could ever remember going
down this far, hir head hurt and sie lost track
of where sie began and ended
there was so much sie had not remembered
and hir Mother would only say that sie
had already chosen not to know

deep in the earth are the labyrinths
past the grass snakes and the turnips
past the springy loam and the roots
past the groundwater and the worms

you are here again, the labyrinth said

again?

you may walk. the price does not change, wyrm.

unsure what that meant, yet
unwilling to wait and miss hir stop
sie went down, down and curled up
shed hir skin and diminished

Playing With Sharp Things

The problem with trying to gather up everything of a particular category in one place is that one has to remember where all of the things from that category are. If I’ve forgotten where something is, or even that I owned it, you’d think it’d be easy to cast aside but my memory is terrible and I’ve had things disappear during terrible moves before, so when something seems to be nowhere to be found, well, either it’ll turn up or it won’t, so I move on and put the thought aside.

In this case, it was an array of pieces from Odin’s altar, from the last time Odin had a proper altar. Spearhead, knife, other knife, small sword-shaped letter opener, a necklace I used to wear for Loki and a few other bits and bobs. I come by my obsession with sharp things honestly.

I don’t quiiiiiite have room in my Magical Knives Drawer for more knives, but we all know I’m going to find space for them.

Have I talked about my Ridiculous Knife Collection? Because it’s ridiculous. I have your normal assortment of metal ritual blades and bowie knives and daggers and pocket knives I’ve pressed into service when I somehow managed not to have a fancy knife to hand. I also have knives made of wood, bone, and glass. You know, because you never know exactly how you might want to tweak your elemental associations. (If I wanted to, I could set up an altar where every element was represented by a knife. That generates some interesting energy of its own, as you can probably imagine.)

I actually did take out and consider all of these when I was doing the original KonMari (except, of course, for the ones I just found). The thing is? I really do love them all. They each have different energies, associations and uses. As ridiculous as it might be to have a Magical Knife Drawer full of magical knives, hey, I’ve done much more ridiculous things. If I’m embracing what makes me happy and has worked for me for a long time, well, stabby things are definitely on that list.

Y is for… Y?

What is the point of faith, for me? Why do I deal with gods? Why do I wonder about how the universe works? Why mess with puzzle pieces?

To a certain extent, I would say I don’t get a choice. There may have been one, or several, in the past but I haven’t had one in ages. A good chunk of what I do it just continuing to deal with the fallout of choices I made when I was a child.

It’s not the blessings, though Mara is generous and I thank her profusely. It’s also not my OCD even though that does play into my thinking on a regular basis.

Basically I seek to know because it’s there. I got into mythology and astronomy at around the same age, because I wanted to know what the big picture looks like. My math skills weren’t high enough for astronomy as a program of study, but I still love both subjects.

I write it down because I hope it helps someone else’s journey. I’ve tried doing my spiritual blogging for a small audience, locked, on a filter, but it didn’t work. If I’m not putting it out there, I don’t feel like what I say has the opportunity to have an impact.

W is for Reconsidering the Winds

prayer flags, shells, and other things that sound lovely when they blow in the breeze
Shrine to the Winds

Air is the element I’ve associated with Odin in the past.

I haven’t posted Manifesting Air yet. Hers is a story I know fairly well but haven’t spent time with in years. I’m not sure why we get away from each other.

Air was the first element that I felt as an element, as energy, however you want to describe it. When I was doing the baby pagan thing, it was the first one I connected to. My tarot significator was the page of air for as long as I used tarot significators.

Somewhere along the line, though, I lost track of the Winds. I love a windy day, I can still feel the energy around me when a storm’s blowing through, but it’s not an element I feel like I connect to the way I do Fire and Metal. Maybe that’s something else I should be working on.

V is for Virtues and Values

Also Ethics, but Ethics doesn’t start with V. Somehow I’ve gotten ten whole months out of the way talking about what I believe in without talking about values and ethics.

It’s not because I don’t think they’re important, mind you. I just feel that values, ethics and virtue, like fiction writing, should adhere to the rule of “show don’t tell.” I hope that my values come across in my writing: simplicity, practicality, self-honesty, hospitality, generosity, industry.

Does it really mean anything for me to tell you that I value generosity if I’m not giving of my time and money? Does it mean anything for me to tell you I value industry if I’m lazing around all the time? Even if you believed me, my words would be hollow and without honor.

As for telling others what is virtuous, I can only tell you what to value if you decide to follow Theos Logos, and even then, it’s more like guidelines, really. I can’t control you. I might tell you what I think of your virtues and your actions, but I don’t consider it my job to tell everyone what to believe. That’s a little too prideful for my tastes.

Project Protagonist: Halloween and First New Year

I believe there’s always another beginning waiting to be explored, and in that spirit, I celebrate three different, distinct New Years. The first of these falls this week, with the holiday known to most pagans as Samhain and pretty much everyone in the US as Halloween. Each of the holidays I celebrate is a busy chunk of time, not a single day, with a number of overlapping holidays and influences.

Samhain is a good example of that. I celebrate the pagan holiday with it’s Catholic influences, honoring the dead who have passed. I celebrate the secular holiday with it’s costumes and the whole-hearted embrace of fear that lasts only a short time. Because I associate Laima with Lakshmi, and because my wife works heavily with Ganesha, I pay attention to the dates for Diwali each year. This is also a time I associate heavily with beginning new creative pursuits, because so much of the internet is talking about NaNoWriMo, Yuletide, Yuletart, and other writing projects.

In the spirit of the Firebird, I try to appreciate the smell of autumn-death as the beginning that it is. We begin to clear away the old because that is what makes way for the new. I try to begin all the major holidays with a declutter, but the new years in particular are good times to clean out cabinets and closets.

Usually I try to get the 31st of October and the 1st of November off work, but this year I wasn’t able to. I’ll be making the most of it by celebrating the memory of the dead after work on the 31st, including both family like my cousin R and my niece I as well as those who’ve influenced me. This is a holyday that belongs to Marzanna, Lady of the Earth, She Who Cradles The Body. It’s also a good day to leave offerings for the Wild Hunt as their season kicks off.

On the 1st, I’ll be kicking off a new year of creativity and hard work with a NaNoWriMo project and a mysterious secret blog project, in between homework, my usual blogging and a little bit of freelance writing.

Suffice to say I’ll be going through a lot of candles this week (the festival of lights’ll do that to you) and we’ll see if I can’t get this year off to a good start.

V is for my Virgil

Dante had Virgil to lead him through the wilds of the otherworlds, explaining as he went how everything worked. I had Aris.

I don’t know that I could honestly talk about the origins of my practice without eventually talking about Aris, but he’s not a god or a type of spirit that I can put a finger on, so it’s weird and awkward to explain him and I’ve often put it off.

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Project Protagonist: the Elements

The elements are the things that make up the universe as we understand it. I think how different people understand and interpret the elements can vary, so I don’t think it’s particularly strange that different people “use” different elemental systems. For myself, I use a five element system that’s something of a hybrid between eastern and western systems: earth, fire, air, water and metal.

Based on a series of dreams I had when I was eleven or so, I have held that Fire was the first element to manifest, followed by Water, Earth, Air, and finally Metal.

Each element pairs with an aspect. Aspect is not actually a very good word; functionally, light and dark, chaos and order and (void) are essentially also elements. But I started using the word when I was a preteen and it’s stuck.

This is one of those areas where my work is intensely personal, not because it’s private but because I’m not sure it’s meaningful to anyone who’s not me or practicing with me. I don’t think the elements as I understand them are a universal truth – lots of people separate earth and wood, for example, but that’s simply not how it works for me in this system.

I don’t talk about this often, because… well, who dreams of a religion when they’re eleven and spends two thirds of their life trying to figure out what that religion is? Or, as I’m doing now, reconstructing it. Because I never did find something that fit precisely, without me having to snip off some heels and toes.

The first dream I had was actually Earth’s dream, but inside the dream I knew that Fire and Water were there because they had already manifested. Air came later, and Metal was the last piece of the puzzle. This was where I learned that the world ends, and life goes on, over and over again. Each element, fully manifested, can change the world and break it. There are little apocalypses and there are big ones but always someone picks up the pieces.

Bookbinding: The Best Decisions I Never Made

Talking to alternate versions of myself is a skill I learned young – one of my first spirit teachers taught me it, along with astral travel.

The way I do it is by picturing the multiverse like a book open on the table. We’re on, let’s say, page 539. Closer ones – ones that are more like this reality – are easier. You could say I regularly check in with pages 535-547 or something. Going all the way over to page 12 would be a lot harder.

I connect to these places via the Library. Whether or not the Library is the place some people refer to as the Akashic Records when they’re looking for past and future lives, I don’t know. Getting to the Akashic Records is a pretty common destination for astral journey-type stuff, though. It’s one of those archetypal destinations. You shouldn’t need much help finding some branch of it, even if you’re not drawn to the Library I see.

“Practice makes perfect” is very true for this skillset. Once you get comfortable with it, you may find yourself drawing certain pages closer to yourself. You can get to know the You you want to be, learn from your other selves, and bring the pages you like into your own story.

Once you’re comfortable doing it, you might start getting flashes of other choices at relevant times – when the lesson learned was something that’d be useful to know at whatever you’re doing now, or when you’re thinking about doing something you already did somewhere else.

Another way to approach it if you’re not into guided meditation is as a thought experiment. Pick some big decision in your life and ask yourself what happened if you went the other way. You can consciously direct it as a fantasy for a little while, if you want, and see what details start popping up that you wouldn’t pick on your own, or you can relax and let it run like a cross between a daydream and automatic writing. (In fact, writing is a good way to focus on this, if you’re having trouble.) And again, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Using this technique, I’ve met versions of myself who I would consider both better and worse off than I am. Sometimes I’m the one encouraging another version of me, too – I’m not the One True Me, after all. But either way, it gives me a sense of perspective and guidance when I’m really not sure what would be the best thing for me.

Bookbinding is the art of drawing the pages together and making a well-connected whole. Once you start to understand the pages around you and the choices you didn’t make as well as the ones you did, you gain a sense of the story of your life and how intentionally you write it vs letting it be written.