Teach Yourself How To Have A Mystical Practice

Just a few ideas to get you started.

Start training your brain to respond. If you smudge or burn juniper as a purification, do it every time, let your spirit learn that this is a cue; like the dog drools when Pavlov rings the bell, let the smoke teach your soul that this is a cleansing time. Use ritual baths or ritual clothing to train yourself to think of the divine in a ritual-appropriate way when you do that bathing, wear that outfit. Associate ways of doing your hair or pieces of jewelry with particular magical tasks or particular relationships to Powers, so that when you put it up or put it on you are already halfway to completing that alignment.

Steep yourself in symbolism like a good cup of tea. Know a hundred names for your gods so that you can call on the right path at the right time. Learn how to see runes in arrangements of fallen twigs. Stop looking up correspondences and live them: blue is heaven, gold is eternal, black is the fertile earth. Do things four times if you’re Kemetic and three times if you’re a Celt, and know why those numbers matter. Read relevant art books for the pictures. Learn the language of pose and gesture. Draw as a devotional practice (or sculpt, or dance, or…) and use what you know. Stop thinking about this stuff and know it.

Pray often. Add prayers to your cleansing, to your cooking, to your awareness of the world. Cultivate wonder. Yell at the gods when that’s what matters. Sit and sink roots deep into the earth, sometimes, and hold the stars with your hands. Use perfumes to cultivate particular states of mind. Collect music that reminds you of your gods, or which puts you in particular frames of mind, and use that music to go deeper into your knowledge. Meditate. Don’t fall into the trap where the only form of meditation you will accept or acknowledge is the no-mind stillness kind; learn to meditate when you’re washing the dishes. If you listen to Enya or something when you’re meditating, don’t play that when you’re driving, it’s not safe.

Get to know yourself. Figure out how long you can go between meals without turning into an asshole before you do a fasting ritual with company over. Figure out how long you can go between meals without making yourself sick before you do a fasting ritual at all. Learn what kinds of foods open you up and what kinds of foods snuggle you down, and eat appropriately for the work you want to do. Try having a glass of wine at dinner if you can safely and see what it does for how your mind works and your energy flows. If you can’t eat a pasta dish without becoming ravenously, crankily hungry an hour or two later, don’t eat pasta before a major ritual. Get enough sleep. Record your dreams in a notebook by the bed, or in private Livejournal entries, or somewhere. Get to know the recurring cast members of your personal inner drama and how many different faces each of them typically has. Find what brings you joy and get to know it better.

Cultivate a regular space for spirit. Burn incense for the dead. Give the first slice of bread to the domovoi. Give presents to your landwights. Pour milk on white stones. Light candles. Sing. Watch the children play, and smile. Make a quiet space when you take your evening medication and be sure to spend some time there every day. Build cairns out of fieldstone. Watch the stars. Dedicate your houseplants as shrines and make watering them a devotional. Paint your entire face with your eyeliner. Be creative.

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The Long Road

When I was a kid, my family did a lot of road trips up and down the east coast of the United States, visiting family. One of the things that I noticed through these peripatetic meanderings was that a lot of towns had the same names: Dover. Rockville. Gloucester.

There was a part of me that always wanted to believe that those towns with the same name were somehow connected, that if I knew the right spot, the place where everything lined up, it would be easy to step – or drive – from one Dover to the next, from one Rockville to another.

I was thinking about this again last night, when I went to dinner at a restaurant just off Route 28, and how my father lives just off Route 28 a few hundred miles away, an entirely different road, but they share a name. So there has to be a way, right?

Names are magic.

We see this in the Western grimoire tradition, where knowing the true name of an entity makes for the powers of summoning and dismissal and control – and we see this back in Egypt, where Aset stole Ra’s name in order to gain the power of creation.

We name things. We summon them up from out of nothingness, out of the Nun, we bring them into being. We imagine things, form images, develop concepts, and then out come the blueprints, the design sketches, the plans, and these things happen… because we started to give them names. We make laws, form families, join clubs, all of these social matters, and all of them are the power of naming.

Names are magic, and with this magic we make the world.

(And if anyone can figure out how to tesser-hop from one Dover to the next one or state route 28 here to state route 28 there without having to deal with the New Jersey Turnpike, I’m all ears.)