Thursday, January 15, 2009

Magical Kindergarten

In the pursuit of esoteric, magical or shamanic training, there is something that must be explained to all prospective and interested students. It's a condition created in our instant-gratification society by movies such as Harry Potter or "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." In these movies the high arts of advanced sorcery, magick and wizardry are taught from the beginning. Harry Potter goes to school and is immediately taught alchemy, transforming objects from one form to another. He can fly on a broomstick right away. In "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," almost all the characters know some form of Kung-Fu, and can levitate and fight with a great degree of skill. While all of this makes for great movies, it seriously misrepresents the learning process for magical knowledge. These movies portray in two hours what can take decades to learn, if at all.

Having said all that, let's now talk about magical kindergarten. There is a kindergarten for magical learning just as there is a kindergarten for public school. In every form of learning, you must master the basics before you can move on to more advanced techniques. Many fantasy novels do a much better job of portraying the process of learning than current movies. For instance, in a fantasy series like "The Belgariad" by David Eddings or a novel like "A Wizard of Earthsea" by Ursula K. LeGuin, the period of early learning and apprenticeship is spelled out in more detail. In both of these books, young magicians-to-be balk at having to learn the fundamentals of magick before being able to cast spells, shape-shift or levitate. But in all cases, the masters force their young apprentices to learn the fundamentals, sometimes for years at a time. In this early process, they are teaching their apprentices the skills of seeing, stalking, will and control. A person's knowledge can only be matched with his level of being, and all of these skills contribute to the level of being. You can have a person with a lot of magical knowledge and no being (a powerless magician), or a person with a very high level of being but no knowledge (a stupid saint). In either case, neither will be very effective in the worlds of magick and shamanism.

So if and when you embark on a journey to learn the arts of magick and shamanism, be patient with the process. Learn the fundamentals well because you'll need to know them instinctively later on. If you are going to do a banishment and you encounter a being who could be either a ghost or an archetype, you'll have to know immediately how to distinguish them because you won't have time to think! A ghost can be banished with a blast of electric blue, but an archetype will fight back and send 10 times the blast of electric blue back at you. It sometimes takes years before you understand the implications of the knowledge that you already have, and this is a rightful part of the magical journey. An author who does a great job describing this path is Tom Brown, Jr. His books include "This Vision," "The Tracker" and "The Journey." If you want to get a real sense of what magical kindergarten looks like, read his books, then add about 15 years to it, since he started when he was 8 and most of us don't start this journey until much later.

Does the thought of magical kindergarten sound boring and interminable? It is in some ways because we don't get to satisfy that need in us to do something really big and glorious in the magical realms. At the same time, though, remember that kindergarten was a lot of fun. In kindergarten, you get to play a lot, and you're not required to do much. As you take this journey, the path keeps getting narrower and narrower, so enjoy the path while it's big and wide. Kindergarten is kindergarten, whether you're 5 or 50. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Magical Element Fire: The Action and Will of Manifestation

Everything in this Universe is made up of some combination of the four magical elements: Air, Fire, Water and Earth. The fire element is associated with will, personal power and creativity. Fire is also the actional and motivation part of any creation and manifestation.

Magically speaking, once you've developed the idea of what you want to create (and done the planning part) in the Air element, it's time to move into Fire, where you take action and endeavor to bring your creation into being.

Fire is associated with the direction South, which is also the direction in which we perform all major spellwork and creation. Fire elementals are called salamanders and reside in campfires, woodstoves or anywhere there is a fire. Specifically, Fire corresponds to:

... energy, power, will, desire, anger, pain, motivation, radiance, passion, initiative, aggression, limitation, endeavor, activity, creative, willingness, urge, inspired, excitable, courage, bravado, compulsion, fanaticism, frustration, resentment, rage, freedom ...


If you want to affect any of these areas in your life, then you need to work with Fire. Unlike Air, which has only three colors, Fire has six major colors:

Sun Yellow - Spirit fire, creativity, radiance
Yellow-Orange - Motivation, excitability, activity
Red-Orange - Anger, pain, fever, aggression, drive
Bright-Red - Courage, bravado, will, endeavor
Deep Red - Passion, flow
Electric-Blue - All bands, initiating force on galactic or universal levels

As with the element Air, you can use the element Fire to adjust various aspects of your life. For instance, if you consistently wake up with the "Monday morning blues," try adding Sun Yellow to your environment. For instance, you could start dressing in Sun Yellow, burn a Sun Yellow candle or put a Sun Yellow spread on your bed.

All of these sources of Sun Yellow will nourish and feed your spirit, increasing your Spirit vitality and chasing away feelings of gloom and doom. Sun Yellow also feed any "hole in the soul" feelings you might have (and which you might otherwise try to fill with food, sleep or other numbing pleasures). Sun Yellow is literally a spiritual "jump start."

+++ More About Salamanders +++

Harry Potter played with salamanders in his movie … and so can you! Salamanders occur around fires, such as wood burning stoves or campfires. They are ball-shaped, pick up the energy of the fire, and become visible. You will see a ball shaped dome in certain parts of the fire, and ashes will fall around them, not on them.

They are useful to have around as they increase the level of heat, making the fire hotter with less wood. If you leave an inch of ash at the bottom of the campfire, it will encourage the salamanders to stay in the campfire, which makes it easier to restart when you return. To keep salamanders around, bed down your coals with layer of earth, it provides an air insulator that they can burrow into. You can dig them out later, and easily restart your fire. A candle flame will spit out little sparks called sprites, which are actually baby salamanders. You can catch them in baby food jars and they will stay glowing in there for 30 or 45 seconds. If you open the jar during that time, they will jump back into in the candle flame. Have fun!

More Ways to Play with Fire
If you want to get "hands on" with the element Fire, try the Fire Home Study Short Course.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Magical Element Air: The Beginning of Manifestation

One of the basic principles that any apprentice magician or shaman learns is that almost everything in this Universe is made up of some combination of the four magical elements: Air, Fire, Water and Earth. The premise is that if you can understand the four elements directly, then you can understand anything in the Universe.

The apprentice also learns that everything that is physical and manifest started out as a mere thought in someone’s mind—or, in this case, as the element Air. Air is at the beginning of all creation, so if you want to create anything, you have to start with Air. Air is associated with the East and also with elemental beings called sylphs. The element Air governs:

…seeing, breathing, speaking, hearing, planning, thinking, believing, memorizing, communicating, learning, teaching, information, ideas, wisdom, understanding, worry, sensation, awareness, opinions, data, memory, mind…

What does this mean to you? It means that if you want to affect any of these areas in your life, you need to work with the element Air. Air is the perfect place for a beginning magician to start learning. As an element, Air is powerful, but not dangerous. There are three colors associated with Air:

Clear: breathing, physical reactions, physical sensations, seeing
White: mental processes, thinking, planning, communicating
Sky Blue: spiritual enlightenment, wisdom, understanding

So how can you use Air to affect and improve your daily life? Here’s a simple way to begin. Through experience and observation, we know that the color White affects the mental processes. If you have either too little or too much White in your elemental balance, you won’t be able to think, learn or recall well. If you have difficulty in any of these areas (or if you really need to cram for a test and can’t seem to study), check how much White is in your environment and in your clothing. If you see a lot of White, change your clothes or change your location. Move to an area with more Sky Blue. If you are surrounded by very little White, put on some White clothes or move into a room that has White walls. Either way, you should notice a shift in the speed and clarity of your mental processes!

More About Sylphs
While it’s true that almost everything in this Universe is made up of the four elements, elemental beings such as sylphs are the exception. Elemental beings are wholly composed of a single element, so sylphs are wholly composed of Air. Sylphs are friendly beings, about 3 to 18 inches long that are twisty in shape. They love to play in cigarette smoke or in dust devils. You might sometimes feel a sylph as a light brush against your face. They are fun to be around and also make excellent messengers and sources of information. When we were traveling through Yellowstone during the fires, we used sylphs to help us find safe routes through the park.

To communicate with sylphs, just ask for one silently, in your mind. Sylphs have short attention spans so it’s best to communicate with your mind because the spoken word is too slow. Ask for what you need and then send them on their way (always thanking them in advance, of course). Don’t be surprised when the sylph returns in short order with the answer you need!

Want to Know More?
To learn how to directly handle the element air, try our Air Home Study Short Course available online.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Real Book of Shadows – What Is It?

A lot of people wonder, "What is a book of shadows? Is it fact or fiction?" In fact, thousands of people type in the search term "real book of shadows" every month to try to find out. If you watch the TV show "Charmed" then you'll know that the Halliwell sisters have a giant book of spells written by their ancestors called a book of shadows. Others will take a hint from the title of the second "Blair Witch" movie, despite there being no actual book in the movie. Still others think a book of shadows is something of a personal journal for Wiccans, an idea popularized by Gerald Gardner, who brought Wiccan practices to public attention with his book "Witchcraft Today," published in 1954.

Obviously the definition of a real book of shadows varies widely in popular culture, and it does among magical and shamanic practitioners as well, depending on which tradition they practice. However, most practitioners agree on three common usages and purposes for a real book of shadows.

** 1. Record Spell Details **

A real book of shadows is used to record all the details of spells that have been cast, including the divinations used prior to casting the spell, the directors and limiters (or parameters) of the spell, the actual methods used in the spell, the results of divinations to check the progress of the spell, and any results of the spell. These details are crucial in case a spell ever goes wrong and has to be taken down. The way a practitioner takes down a spell that has already been cast depends on the way that the spell was cast. For instance, if a spell was cast using a carved candle then to take down the spell the practitioner could break the candle used in the spell and bury the remnants in the garden for a moon cycle.

** 2. Track Magical and Shamanic Research **

Magical and shamanic practitioners are often engaged in research. This research can be to discover facts about past lives, divine future events, try out new techniques, or travel to different planes. For instance, magical practitioners in our tradition will record the results of walks in the black mirror, which is a portal to other planes of existence, commonly called the half-worlds. When walking in the black mirror, the practitioner needs to use a litany or chant to direct the walk and keep from getting lost. After returning from such a walk, not only will the practitioner record the results of the walk in a real book of shadows, including any new facts or revelations, but will also record the effectiveness of the chant so that it can be used again or fine-tuned for future use.

** 3. Preserve Magic and Shamanism for the Future **

Of course, one of the most important purposes of a real book of shadows is to preserve magical and shamanic knowledge for future practitioners. Practitioners of most traditions "stand on the shoulders" of those giants who have come before. There's no real reason to keep re-inventing the wheel. A real book of shadows, which can contain the research and results of multiple generations of practitioners, is usually handed down through the generations. Each generation of practitioners (who are not necessarily related) adds their experience to the book. In fact, the material in a real book of shadows is often so voluminous that the "book" becomes a multi-volume set.

A real book of shadows is really a record of magical and shamanic experience that is preserved either for an individual's use or for future use. Some practitioners keep individual books of shadows and never hand them down, either because they have no one to hand them to or because they are secretive. In any event, if you are a practitioner of the magical arts, you should definitely start your own book of shadows. It will help you remember what you have done, track your magical experiments, and possibly create a magical asset for the future.

In Magic,
Alan