17 Year Cidadae

So the big thing this summer is that the 17-year cycle cicadas are hatching. They’re big, red, noisy bastards, and a type of bug I’ve always disliked. I’ve never been big on bugs, and having insects that large that fling themselves at you unpredictable while making an awful buzzing sound is a sure-fire way to get me to emit high pitched screams and have me rapidly exit.

Well, they started hatching early this year, and it wasn’t long before I encountered them at Heartland. The first morning, one was molting on one of my camp boxes, and it went downhill from there. By the end of the festival, there were tents under tree with literally dozens of cicadas trying to dry out their newly minted wings.

See, I have this thing about bugs. I’m not exactly phobic, but I really dislike them. I’m terrified of stinging insects, and anything that I can mistake for one makes me nervous. And the bigger they are the less I like them. Anything that buzzes makes me twitch and squirm.

But if I they’re calm, and I can view them safely (say, from behind glass), then they kind of intrigue me. They’re interesting. They’re tiny and complicated, and evolved to navigate a world of smaller hazards. We still don’t know how they see with those complicated eyes. And they exists in a world of intensely strong smells and chemical warfare. (And bees can do complex mathematical calculations and estimates, and communicate them to each other.)

Yes, there’s metaphors and lessons and things in this.

So here I am at an event that I consider both a religious and vacationing experience, at a location I regard as sacred. It is a space I feel comfortable and safe in, where I can let my shields down in a way I can’t in the “real” world. And I’m surrounded by thousands of noisy bugs that I not only dislike, but usually have a fear response to.

I had two ways to respond. I could have freaked out and stayed in my tent, or I could get used to them and not worry.

I’m not sure if it was because the critters were still molty and wet and vulnerable, or if it was because they weren’t noisy yet, or because of the environment, but I kind of started to not mind them. I didn’t want any in my tent, and I steered clear of them, but I didn’t freak out or anything. I was cautious, but not nervous or scared. I wasn’t picking any up or playing with them, but who knows, maybe in time.

Things that come at me unexpectedly frighten me. Things I don’t understand frighten me. Things that I can’t control frighten me. This goes for bugs, magick, or love. But when I was able to be at peace in a safe space, I could encounter what made me uncomfortable on my terms, and be at peace with it.

I think I’m really starting to understand the importance of safe spaces and holding space in a way that I hadn’t before, and I’m hoping this can help me better deal with my Empathy and my fears of loss and rejection.

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Love the One You’re With

If you’re down and confused
And you can’t remember who you’re talkin’ to
Concentration slips away
‘Cuz your baby is so far away

About two decades ago, I was emotionally involved with a girl that I call Jewel. She was the first person that I ever fell in love with. She was also the first person to emotionally manipulate me. (Well, first non-relative at any rate.)

I was utterly smitten with her, but I didn’t understand what that meant. I was willing to do anything for her, and she was eager to take full advantage of that. I had some romantic notion that we were meant for each other and destined to be with each other forever, and she encouraged that notion as long as 1) it meant she could coax favors and gifts from me, and 2) she was able to convince me that the time for us to be together was some time in the near future, but not in the actual present (we can’t be together right now, but we will be soon).

Eventually I got the hint. It took one of her friends pulling me aside and telling me to my face that Jewel was just using me and did not actually want to be with me. (She wasn’t gentle about it. She actually screamed it at me in front of a group of their friends. They all laughed at me. They had been in on the joke.)

We avoided each other for a time, and I kind of moved on. But not entirely.

Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love
Honey love the one you’re with

I met another girl, who I refer to as Diamond. She was much more stable, and actually respected me. We got along very well, and started dating.

I was her first love. She was utterly smitten with me, but I don’t think she really understood what that meant. Things went well until an incident where my car broke down on a date and I lost my temper and kicked the car in frustration. Her parents had divorced in part because of her father’s violent nature, and I had scared her. We stopped seeing each other.

Don’t be angry, don’t be sad
Don’t sit cryin’ of about the good times you had
There’s a girl right next to you
And she’s just waiting for something to do

A while later, I reached out to Diamond. I left an unsigned birthday card on her car. She knew it was me, and she called. We started seeing each other again. About the same time, Jewel showed back up, and we started talking again.

I was confused. Jewel had a knack for feeding and taking advantage of my natural insecurities. She fed my doubts. That’s how she kept me in check. Diamond genuinely wanted to be with me, but I couldn’t accept that. I kept wondering what she saw in me, what she wanted from me. Because when you’ve been in manipulative relationships, a person who says they don’t want anything from you makes you nervous.

Ultimately, I was still holding on to my connection with Jewel. And because of that, I wasn’t able to devote my full attention to Diamond (who would have made a far superior mate, and was an excellent choice for a long-term partner). And in the long run, I lost them both.

There’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love
Honey love the one you’re with

I ended up in a marriage that I felt obligated into. I still felt crushing guilt for the way I screwed Diamond over, disgust and hatred for Jewel, and regret that I hadn’t gone after Pearl instead. And I’m talking about dealing with relationship baggage or processing emotions from old involvements — I mean that I was still putting energy into those old relationships, still maybe hoping that I might be able to revisit and repair some of them.

When I divorced, I tried to look up Pearl. I actually got a hold of Diamond and we talked (and she told me she never wanted to talk to me again — I request I have honored to this day). I’m not sure what I was hoping for — rebuilding a friendship, a relationship, atoning somehow? But I wasn’t able to let those go.

Turn your heartaches run into joy
She’s a girl and you’re a boy
Get it together, make it nice
Ain’t gonna need anymore advice

After a lot of work, I moved on. I got involved in a long term relationship that went very well at first, but soured after about five years. By the time it ended I was relieved more than anything. I hope that it is because I was a bit more mature, but I did not pine after the loss of this relationship, and had no hope to rekindle, repair, or revisit it at all. I had given as much effort as I could have (and more) into that relationship, and I was satisfied it was done.

Continue reading

Audience

Mike Sententia talked a bit about experiences explaining magic to people.

I get nervous explaining magick. Even to friends, even if they believe too, even after writing this blog for four years. I expect they’ll be bored, or they’ll trivialize my work as just another visualization, another arbitrary way to communicate intent to the unconscious. And so, I rush.

I rush through the model, defining terms rather than explaining the ideas behind them. I talk about one technique, rather than walking them through the overarching model and my reasons for using it. I try to finish quickly, rather than drawing them in so they want to explore the ideas with me.

Of course, rushing creates the exact problems I’m anticipating.

But if you take the time to consider the fact that they don’t know what you’re talking about (or at least not to the detail you are familiar with), and take them slowly through it, you get better results.

This week, I explained my current work to a friend. I made myself slow down. Explained ethereal muscles before discussing communication. Talked about referred sensations from imagination before discussing the tingles that come from energy. Stepped her through each idea while we had breakfast.

And she got it. She even offered to help me test some techniques

The problem here is twofold.

First of all, when you’re really in depth into something, it can be very difficult to remember the perspective you had as a novice. This makes it very easy to jump over an important term or concept, forgetting that the person you’re talking to isn’t familiar with it. And then you jump back and forth in a disjointed fashion, which makes it easy to lose people. Lost people become bored easily. (Notice how Sententia had better results when he presented his information in a more organized fashion?)

Secondly, this has a lot to do about passion and interest, and isn’t exclusive to magic. It’s easy to do this with whatever your passion or hobby or love is. It can be magic, the occult, or paganism, sure. It can also be gushing over the latest episode of Sherlock, or Supernatural, or going on endlessly about cars, or politics, or what color you baby’s poop was. We gush about what we’re passionate about.

Both of these issues are about perspective and empathy. It is very easy to forget the perspective of someone not as emotionally or intellectually invested in something as you are, and tone down your responses appropriately. Keep your audience in mind, and you will find it more receptive.

On problems of explaining magic, the occult, paganism, fandoms, or anything that is unusual and cliquish to outsiders

Color Magic: Green

Green gnosis is the gnosis of love and Venusian energy.

Carroll complains of the muddling of love and sex that often occurs in magical systems, and I think he has a good point. Speaking from personal experience I can think of several people I love very dearly that I would not have sex with, as well as a few that I certainly don’t love but wouldn’t mind a tumble in the sheets with.

So in addressing green magic, we are discussing feelings of affection, love, friendship, intimacy, loyalty, and hospitality. Eros, the expression of sexual desire, can be coupled to the green gnosis but is not in itself a part of it. (Please not that the asexual community has been making this point with increased vigor: romantic feelings and a desire for intimacy do not have to be sexual in nature.) This gnosis establishes emotional connections between people in such a way that they feel comforted in some way.

Green magic has two basic functions: to make yourself more likeable to others, and to develop self-love. The latter is vital to achieving the first. There is a type of confidence that comes from being comfortable with oneself that makes you more appealing to be around, and developing that confidence in turn puts others at ease.

In addition to spells and enchantments to develop your appeal and bring others to you, green gnosis can be tapped to develop social skills to make yourself seem more friendly to others. Behavioral matching, such as syncing body posture and speech vernacular, can make other people feel at ease around you. Neurolinguistic Programming has given us numerous techniques to do just that, ranging from matching word choice to respiratory rates.

I’ve already commented on some of the potential uses and misuses of such techniques when discussing the confidence building exercises I’ve found in pick-up books. And while the PUA community has a bad reputation that it appears to have worked very hard to earn and diverse, the more advanced approaches to Game exemplify this type of green magic: using body posture, word choice, and displays of interest to make yourself appear charismatic, friendly, and interesting. Flirting is a vital skill to green magic.

One area that is also related to green magic is empathy. Carroll discusses empathy in terms of putting people at ease by making them feel that you have a lot in common with them, via techniques mentioned above. But I am talking about empathy in the harder sense of feeling the emotions of other people as if they were your own. Bonds of friendship are just that: bonds. And those connections are often the basis for for love and friendship.

Empaths have a natural inclination to forge those bonds easily. Many empaths have trouble with this, as it is all too common to form bonds with people that will take advantage of you or otherwise not reciprocate your affection. I myself am still working on managing my emotional connections to other people, and it can be very difficult to do.

In short, being an empath is not easy. But one aspect of empathy is often overlooked: those connections flow both ways. Most empaths talk about being overwhelmed by strong emotions in a room or from another people, but not as many practice projecting their emotion into those environments. And for good reason — it can be exhausting to do so. But working on a smaller scale, the ability to easily and casually form honest emtional connections to others can make you seem more friendly and trustworthy to other people (even if you don’t like them that much).

Letting Go

It’s really hard for me to let go of things.

It may be my watery nature, but I have a tendency to absorb and retain everything, from useless information to emotional impressions, to random thoughts to people to rocks to unique phrases to books.

I’m not an obsessive person, but I’m pretty close.

And I’m very sensitive. I’m a natural empath, and I’ve had issues and struggles with that over the years. I feel the emotions of other people as if they were my own, and that has a number of problems associated with it. It’s hard to tell what I’m feeling and what I’m getting from someone else. It’s hard to tell who I’m getting what from. And it’s really hard to recognize that I am not the root cause of (or often even associated with) the emotions I am feeling from other people.

So if someone’s mad, I think they’re mad at me. If someone’s hurt, I think I hurt them. If someone is attracted to someone else, I’m not sure if they’re into me or not.

And I dwell on things like that, because it takes a lot of processing to sort that all out. And I play out different scenarios in my head to try and separate the threads. And because the data are so jumbled, I can easily come to the wrong conclusion.

Whoever said to trust your intuition obviously wasn’t dealing with this crap. Continue reading

Martyrdom

Satyr Magos has an interesting story about a bartender that took the pain if an injury from a patron:

“Give it to me,” I said.  “I’m a professional.”  (Perhaps a slight exaggeration.)

“No,” he said.  “I took it.  It’s my responsibility.”

I respected that, so I let it go.

[…]

As I work down on my third bourbon, though, the whole thing starts to weigh on me.  He’s nourishing the pain, taking it on as some sort of martyrdom, and it’s making it so he can’t work.  I’m reluctant to push the issue, but Aradia argues that it’s just as idiotically macho to let him suffer as it is for him to insist on suffering, and that if I won’t take the pain off of him, she’ll do it. Continue reading

Empathy, Psychic Vampirism, and Magical Connections

I’m an empath.

That’s one of those meaningless buzzwords a lot of pagans and newagers toss around these days. It seems every one is an empath. They all know what you’re feeling, you see. They’re sensitive. They can read you. They’re in tune and they know.

I have never once had a so-called empath pick up on when they were annoying me. So much for picking up on my feelings.

Empathy for me was not just being able to pick up on (or guess at) someone else’s feeling. I can feel the feelings, the joys, the pains of other people as if they were my own. Not as in “you’re in pain so I’m in pain, too,” but as in “holy shit I’m so angry for no reason at all I just want to punch something oh, it’s just because that guy I walked by found out his girlfriend was cheating on him.” I directly experience the emotion and even physical pain of others. (I once had track marks manifest on my arm because someone I was close to was using. Scared the hell out of me.)

I don’t really think of it as a “gift” as the newagers like to pretend it is. It’s more like walking in a sandstorm without any skin on. Sensing magical energy becomes problematic for me not because I can’t tune in to it, but because my entire life has been dedicated to building up thick shields to keep everything out, and sometimes I can’t remember how to take them down. Because without that barrier, without that boundary, I will lose myself completely in other people, and have no center from which to define myself.

My teenage years were kind of rough. Walking down the hall at school meant feeling twenty different emotions and not knowing why. Shrinks just told me it was normal teenage hormonal things, and I’d get over it and life would be fine as long as I got my homework done on time. Oddly enough that didn’t help much.

Learning magic helped. It helped me realize what was going on, and to start being able to control it. Realizing that I was capable of being “me” independent of what the people around me were broadcasting was an amazing feeling. I still keep my natural passive shields pretty thick (they’re actually a by product of how I “ground”) and I maintain a pretty strong ego so that I have an anchor point to remember who I am. But I’m better able to drop those barriers when I need to, and there are some cool advantages to being able to read people that deeply.

I do it very rarely. I kind of hate it.

So what does this have to do with psychic vampires?

I’ve heard a theory tossed around that psychic vampires are “broken empaths.” That these people have an empathic connection to others and simply take it too far. The poor dears, they’re really victims here. They’re sensitive, fragile souls who are sharing in an intimate connection with other people and just don’t know how to pull back.

I believe this to be utter bullshit.

I have yet to meet a psychic vampire who is not an insufferable drama queen. I have yet to meet a psychic vampire who is not childish and entitled. I have yet to meet a psychic vampire who does not expect others to take care of every problem that they have. And I have yet to meet a psychic vampire who has any significant consideration for other people. And I realize that is very harsh to say, but it is what I have observed. And I’ve dealt with some pretty hard core psychic vampires.

These are not people who feel what you feel and take some off the top. These are self-absorbed people with boundary issues.

The worst psychic vampire I have encountered is a woman I shall call Willow. She was one of the most manipulative people I have known, and used her “sensitivity” to control a number of groups she was a member of. Her disregard for personal boundaries extended to the psychical, and she would commonly caress, fondle, or grope people in a manner that would have gotten most men arrested. The slightest opposition to her whim would be met with anger and appeals to others to protect her, and calling her out on that would result in tear-filled protestations of persecution and reminders of various anxiety issues.

She loved to do energy work. Any excuse to feel up someone’s aura was okay with her (The group I was in stopped doing such work because of her). She greedily sucked up ambient energy from the room or other people. I still will not allow her to touch me — she once drained me so severely that a quick poke to my back left me instantly sick. And she has described her vision of her astral form, with many tendrils that lovingly caress everyone she meets. Oh, and she once mentioned to someone that he has an ethereal penis, which she presumably also uses to lovingly caress people. She was an auric molester of monstrous proportions.

So why do I say she wasn’t an empath?

As an empath — at least when I open up to it — I feel what someone else is feeling. As my own feelings. If they are angry, I am angry. If they are happy, I am happy. If they are sad, I am sad. And it’s not as if I suddenly become aware they are feeling something and then figure out what it is. I feel it as if it were my own feeling.

So if I am in a room of people, and I am feeling them up physically and astrally, and violating and ignoring all of their personal boundaries, and they all feel violated and disgusted and annoyed and uncomfortable —

I feel that way too.

And I want to withdraw.

And if I am making someone uncomfortable, and I sense it, I stop doing what was making them uncomfortable. I back off.

Willow doesn’t, and neither does any other psychic vampire I’ve dealt with. For supposed empaths, they don’t have much empathy.

But empathy and psychic vampirism are connected.

Shielding is very important to me. They keep the noise out. And because of my empathic sense, I build some elaborate ones sometimes. And I can get through other people’s pretty easily if I want to.

I have a channel in if I can get that empathic connection.

And I’ve seen psychic vampires work the same way. They often have an innate ability to bypass shields.

Empathy and psychic vampirism seems to be defined by an ability to make fast and strong magical connections to things.

In my case, my ability to connect to other people is so strong I feel them as I feel me. In the case of psychic vampires, they connect easily to other people as a source of energy. And I think that this is what psychics do: they have an innate ability to form fast and strong magical connections to events and objects. And this is what mediums (media?) do: they form fast and strong connections to spirits and beings from the other side.

So I don’t see psychic vampires as broken empaths. But I think we’re different types of a certain class of people that for whatever reason has an stronger (or even instinctive) ability to create magical links. And I happen to think that makes magic come a little easier to us. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to go to the dark place of natural-born wizards versus the muggles.)

I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts or observations on this. Have you had experiences with psychic vampires like this? Are you an empath? have you ever thought of your ability in this way? Because it brings up some very interesting implications and possibilities for magical work …