The Gale

Batten down the hatches!

There’s a hurricane in the Gulf. (Last I checked it went back out and is headed in for a second helping of Alligator Sausage Cheesecake.) Best of luck to everyone in Isaac’s path. I mean it. I’m-a-prayin’.

I was recently told, in a commentary about how busy I stay, that I was the kind of person who, if it were raining outside, I’d do a rain-dance and call up a hurricane. I don’t think it was intended as a compliment, but I decided to take it as such. It’s accurate anyway. My reply was, “Well, hurricanes are nature’s way of restoring balance.”

Can I go on a bit about some things that seem unrelated if I promise to try to make sense in the end?

The Tempest, 2010. Helen Mirren as Prospera

In the opening scene of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero brews up a storm to bring his wrongdoers’ ship ashore to where he can exact justice. Restore balance.

This was never my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays but I love what Julie Taymor did with the film in 2010. By casting Helen Mirren as “Prospera,” Taymor changed the whole tenor of the story, in my opinion. The dynamic becomes “female sorcerer” (and you know how I feel about that) and “mother/daughter,” which is both less creepy for a modern audience and more believable – and perhaps a little more forgivable in the way Prospera treats both Caliban and Ariel. Well, Caliban at least. And it nicely mirrors Caliban’s relationship with his mother, Sycorax. Good Witch, Bad Witch sorts of stuff.[1]

As the storyline goes, one thing leads to another, one revelation follows another. Folks we thought we could trust end up being bumbonnets, folks we thought were unscrupulous end up saving the day, and Russell Brand does a little dance. Just like real life.

The thing for which Prospero/a needs justice is defamation by and subsequent unlawful loss of his/her dukedom to his/her brother. Would n’t it have been awesome if Taymor had cast a lady villain too?

By using spells and incantations and a spirit named Ariel, Propspero/a get to the bottom of the misdeeds. Those who don’t reckon reveal spells and reversal magic can be bent to operate according to the will of the sorcerer have very limited imaginations, and (I suspect) limited experience. Prospero/a, like many Rennaissance magicians, is very inventive – and experienced. In the end, s/he gets what she wants and all is forgiven. Balance restored.

That’s right. Forgiven. Go figure. It’s fiction.

As an interesting (to me) note: Bertie wrote a book about forgiveness, not as an intrapsychic (i.e., love and light) sort of thing, but as an interpersonal phenomenon where the maltreated are required to confront their aggressors – and if it’s not possible or ill-advised, victims should elicit the assistance of the divine for confrontation and retribution.

All this talk about “justified Work” along with the emails and comments I’ve been getting from some of y’all makes me want to sit and ponder a hurricane for a spell. And what it means to be in balance.

They tell us that Isaac has veered away from my particular part of the state and that Furfur and friends have their sights set on other locale; but that doesn’t mean I won’t feel its effects. Yesterday, an oppressively warm wind blew across the plains and made The Bad Witch’s hair do that thing where no fastener in the world will keep it in check. This morning I awoke to a wet lawn and four little hens facing their first week without a rooster,[2] asking me, “What’s up?” and “This coop isn’t going to blow away, is it?”

On Facebook, in private messages, all over, y’all let me know that having some clearer parameters of “justified” work has helped you out. I’ve passed the word on to Maman Lee. But I want to be clear about something. When the winds are whipping , you have to know that you are going to feel the effects – even when the storm veers to the west. Because we put energy out there. The energy will seek balance. There might be a bit of reverb on that. No, I take it back – there will be a bit of reverb.

Not all reverb is bad, mind you. I can really dig a G major with an E in the bass.

But the point remains, when we believe that we belong to an interconnected universe, how logical is it to believe that sending energy out will provide us a totally insulated space where none of the aftershock or recoil or whatever metaphor you like will not reach us? It’s not logical. Newton: Law III. We can plan well and try to assure that the “equal reaction” will work in our favor. (Oh, yes we can certainly do this.) But we have to plan for it.

Plan. Construct. Craft.

Let me share a TV plotline. I recently got wound up with The Newsroom. Smart show, btw. Totally fiction. Anyway, the main character revises his contract to get a little something he wants – specifically to have a little power over the female lead. Then, a few episodes later, he discovers that this negotiation left him open to a direct threat from executives. In his renegotiation, he forgot to close the window that said his ratings had to be somethin’-somethin’ lest he be summarily dismissed. (Or somethin’.) Now, he no longer wants the power he so desperately desired – and yet, his arse is flapping in the wind. On account of – he asked for it. Isn’t that just how it goes? You cast a little “mojo” and get what you want and all is well and then, before you know it, Jane Fonda has you by the metaphorical balls.

I’ve told you about “The Witch’s Duh.” This is it. Sometimes balance will be restored and it will do so in such a way that leaves our hair twisting in the winds and our chickens wondering, “Will this thing blow away?” Balance is not always “nice.” It is always, however, right.

Go ahead. Grumble. I’ll wait.

Another pop culture reference? The Butterfly Effect. Only without Ashton Kutcher. You can think that you have all of your ducks in a row and then, duh, a butterfly sneezes in the rainforest. Or something like that.

This is all just to say – know that when we cast, justified or not, we are changing things. She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes (Starhawk). And She will always – regardless of how we feel things should work out – create balance. This is why I always urge my students to work on interior change to manifest exterior change. Because guess what? Exterior change will manifest interior change. It just will. And if we are off-balance when She decides to blow a hot wind on a Tuesday night, we will blow right over.

I’m a little beat from a wild and windy Tuesday, y’all[3] and I realize that I may not have lived up to my promise to make sense. But I didn’t want to get tucked in before I cleaned up that pothole for you. Watch out for this one, sometimes you think the road’s been paved and – bam – like a myoclonic shock during a freaky dream, you are suddenly slammed wide awake wondering, “Will this thing blow away?”

The Road Not Taken, I haven’t forgotten you. I just want to make sure I give you good info – so let me double-check some things and I’m on it, deal?

Good night, see you tomorrow.

TBW

[1] And for crissake – I mean this to say that there is no difference between what is perceived to be goodness and what is perceived to be badness. Untwist your panties and move the eff on.

[2] I took Lola, the rooster to North Alabama to live with The Bad Daddy’s hens and make some behbehs.

[3] I made the mistake of taking a substitute teaching job for the week, oi.

And I have lots of friends in NOLA; been arranging transportation and lodging via text since Sunday. Fortunately my two favorites are in Alabama and New York at the moment, so Phew!

The Atrum Traba: Dealing With Particularly Nasty Astral Energy

I’m about to attempt to share with you the development of and use of one of my favorite exorcism tools: The Atra Traba, The Dark Table. (Linguistically, this is a convoluted translation, but one I’m going to stick with for simplicity’s sake. The Darkness to which I refer is plural in nature and refers to the Darkness for which the table is used and not an adjective of the Table itself, so Atrum is appropriate (rather than singular Atra). Traba refers to a plank of wood, not necessarily a “table” – but as most capable practitioners are familiar with the use of The Holy Table of Practice, it is understood that this is not a “table” in the sense of four-legs-and-a-flat-top-at-which-one-sits.)

The purpose of this tool is to collect, call out, and banish (or exorcise) a particularly troublesome energy, entity, elemental, or (shiver) demon. I like to call these Astral Nasties and Etheric Ewies.

Astral Nasties run the gambit of self inflicted energy collections, elemental entities or thoughtforms sent over by the neighborhood Bad Witch (not, of course, yours truly), or demonic energies that have latched onto, gotten sucked into, or become enamored with a humans’ energy. Wherever they’ve come from, they all tend to do the same thing: cause trouble. And they cause trouble in the physical realm as well as the psychic realm. You don’t want to mess around with an Etheric Ewie that has gotten strong enough to shove, to turn electrical appliances on, or to be audible / visible (especially to the non-initiated).

One HUGE problem is that many practitioners believe that a simple “House Cleaning” will get rid of these Nasties. Oh, boys and girls, you will be in for a ride if you try to smudge a real Astral Nasty out of your home.

I rather like WitchVox.com, but often, when it comes to banishing, the attitude seems to be that “one size fits all.” In this (perfectly nice) article, author, Nita, explains how to do a house cleaning spell. Now, for most beasties, this will do just fine. Especially if you are just dealing with some residual ex-husband energy or “getting up in the corners” after a hectic visit from Aunt Sue.

However, this article on home cleansing, found in the most cursory of web searches, and the attitude that seems to spawn such advice, really frightens The Bad Witch (and that’s sayin’ sompthin’). This writer seems to indicate that all one needs is some herbs and oils and a little bit of warm-and-fuzzy to make the Ewie make an exodus. Um, no. Even the best of witches should use extreme caution when dealing with *real* Astral Nasties.

I was very pleased to, in that same cursory web search, find this article, which advises unabashedly that: “This ritual is not designed to handle very intense, negative beings that may fight back, and I wouldn’t recommend it for that. My advice is to find an expert to help you, or a ritual specifically designed and thoroughly tested for just such a problem.”  Very responsible. The Bad Witch approves.

You see, it’s like this.

If you have some leftover crap from a fight you had with the postman or a little depression lingering after a bad financial week, you have a “mini-ew” and you can, perhaps, get rid of the pest for good – easy peasy, like getting rid of a bothersome domesticated dog or something. Yeah, he might come back looking for another free meal, but a firm hand will banish the little doggie for good. Dogs are smart and don’t want to be yelled at. They’ll find someone else to take them in.

Let’s not take this metaphor too far or you might mistakenly think that The Bad Witch is advising you to take that bothersome doggie to a shelter or – worse – adopt it y’own self. Take good care of real stay dogs, sure. This metaphorical pooch  should not be fed of given shelter.  Seriously, I know folks who would (or, unfortunately, have) take in an Astral Nasty as though it were a homeless pup.

Like with stray dogs, Astral Nasties will take a varying level of confidence, experience, and technical know-how to get rid of a mini-ew. Hey, I’ve even seen newbies find success scaring off a mini-ew with no more than a set of well written instructions, a bare-bones tool kit of sage and a well-made oil, and a little tenacity. It’s an energy thing.

However.

Those really ganky Nasties and Ewies are like wild bears (only less sympathetic sometimes). They are looking for the same handout that the doggie is looking for, however, they have you outweighed by about five times, they are far less afraid of you than you are of them, they do not have the desire to please humans that dogs have developed – on account’o bears are wild (“duh,” my very intuitive daughter likes to tell me), and – quite freaking honestly – they have huge paws and teeth.

And they can smell your fear.

A traditional house cleansing or smudging does little more than anesthetize the bear. From my experience, about three days. I don’t know why it’s three days, it just usually is. When that bear wakes up, it’s going to be confused, clumsy, and pissed off.

So, you have done a basic sage-and-chanting house cleansing. And after three days of calm, just when you thought everything was going to be OK,  you suddenly find that you have one effing pissed off bear going through your cabinetry looking for Etheric Snickers. And it’s hungry (coz it’s been asleep for three days) and it’s off-kilter (coz you jazzed it up on a blend of sage and dragon’s blood oil) and it’s mad (coz there’s a tranquilizer dart sticking out its arse).  What do you do now?

What you DON’T do is shoot it with another dart.

My recommendation is that you call someone who knows wtf to do with this bear. Preferably someone versed in exorcism and / or Goetic Arts (a practice where a human actor evokes (i.e. draws out) an entity and projects it into a defined space – such as the Triangle of Art in Solomonic evocation).

If you don’t know or can’t locate said magician, learn what you can in as much time as you can afford about exorcism and Goetic Arts. Once you have the basic gist of the practice, make yourself an Atrum Traba. This is rather like The Triangle of Art and serves as a generic Lamen for those Astral Nasties.

Table of Art

The *real* work is in the “getting ready.” The “doing” of the exorcism seems to fall out from there.

Grab a piece of something solid. I have heard others say that this can be done with a piece of paper and a Sharpie. The Bad Witch is not convinced. Maybe construction paper and crayola work with one of those mini-ew doggies . . .  But, here, I think we need something more durable. We are bear hunting, after all. Grab a flat level of wood, a leftover bathroom tile, a cutting board, a handheld mirror, shoot – grab a dinner plate. “Carve” (with anything from acrylic paint to a Dremmel) a Table of Art.

Faust Manifesting Mephistopheles

The next trick is getting the energy to manifest itself into one unified being. This is the daunting part if you don’t know what you are doing (which is why I recommend you have some help from someone familiar with Goetia and in close conversation with their Agathodaemon).
You, the exorcist at this point, want to be *inside* a sacred circle. (If you don’t know how to do this, you are at the wrong cite and should search elsewhere and then come back. Sorry.) Sweep the entirety of the house or building or grounds and “accumulate” all of the Ewie-Nasty into one place. Command it to “manifest” itself onto the Table of Art. Those who understand Enochian or Goetian – particularly Solomonic – evocation, understand the function of the geometric shapes on the Table. If you don’t understand them, it’s OK, the Astral bear will. Once you have a “plastic” manifestation of the Nasty on your Table, command it’s name. If it was a unified being prior to your conjuration, it will have a name. If it was a conglomeration of beings and it has just become a unified being, this may take a bit longer. Well, this may take a good deal of time either way. Sometimes the Nasties don’t want to leave and, like the entities in Reagan, will toy with you to the extent that you allow them to. Don’t let them toy with you.
At all.
This is a bear, remember?
     How, pray tell, do you get an Astral Nasty to tell you its name, you ask. That, my dears, is a very good question.
    You begin with (yet another) table and a pendulum. This table is easy. I have, in a pinch, used my telephone         keypad. You just need something to display letters or sets of letters (think Ouija board). In a – sometimes painstaking – conversation with the Nasty, you will ask a series of questions in order to obtain it’s name. Like I said above, do NOT let it toy with you. Remind it that it answers to you and that you stand at the center of the (Etheric) cosmos as a representative of the Creator (its Creator). Hopefully you won’t have to resort to threats. If you find yourself expressing a parental tone and counting “1 … 2 … ,” The Bad Witch recommends that you place the entity in a state of stasis as best you can and call for back-up. If no back up is to be found, resort to threats – but be prepared to follow through with full authority. If you frighten easily, this is just not for you. (Go ahead and contact me. I’m here to help.)
Now that you have your Nasty / Ewie / bear in a state of manifestation, and once you know it’s name, banish it. Banish it good. Banish it hard. Mean it. Don’t invite the S.O.B. back. Not even in that small place in the back of your head that likes all of the Astral Drama. (It’s an effing BEAR.) Because if you invite it back – even sort of invite it back -it will come back. With friends. And then? Good luck to ya.
After it’s gone, be sure to close the portal through which you sent it. Silly. And lock it up tight. You are going to need some sleep.
Ground yourself well. Then quit thinking about it. Completely. (This is, indeed, easier said than done.)
A lot of witches will tell you that the best thing to do now is laugh. After all, laughter is a great banisher. This is true. However, The Bad Witch recommends you take it a step further – have a drink and watch something like Mystery Science Theater 3000. Laugh, yes. But laugh in such a way that moves your brain away from the Nasty and away from magic. A return to the banal and mundane physical life is a great sealant for the portal you closed and locked tight.
If the bear breaks your door in again, call animal control. It’s OK to admit that some things are beyond our (current) capacities.
Be safe.
Be blessed.
Be loved.
Blessings, Quarks, and 93,
TBW

The Bad Witch at The Watering Hole

Image from Travelers Insurance commercial, "At the Watering Hole" (2010).

Have you seen the Travelers Insurance commercial, “At the Watering Hole,” where all of the creatures of the Savannah “get along”? It’s supposed to be cute and, I suppose, comforting; but it’s actually unnatural and a little creepy. Imagine The Grasslands overflowing with meerkats, gazelle, and water buffalo. Imagine what the world would be like without any predators.

Imagine what day would be like without night. Sure, there are places like Northern Alaska, “The Land of the Midnight Sun,” where the sun shines from May to August. But this light is balanced by an equal amount of darkness on the other half of the year’s wheel.

Imagine what biology would be like without cell death.

Imagine what magic would be like without destruction. Imagine if all the energy we cast out was “good” or if all light was “white.”

But I am remiss.

Please allow me to introduce myself.

I am The Bad Witch.

By “bad,” I do not mean poor or ineffectual. Oh, no. I am very effectual. Sometimes to my own dumbfounding. Neither do I mean “evil.” I have a moral compass, however broken it may seem. I have a clear set of criteria for spell-work and I rarely cast intoxicated. That I can recall.

What I do mean by “bad” is that I may walk a little to the left-hand path. While I’m no Lovecraftian or Satanist, I do appreciate the dark as it so beautifully compliments the light. I am not afraid to cast a binding on a neighborhood creeper; I have no qualms about asking for justice; and I have been know to conjure a boogyman to make someone mindful of dangerous behavior. Especially when it’s me and mine who are in danger. So, while I stay in the middle of the road for the most part and I try to keep my work on the up-an-up, if a raging sense of protectiveness overwhelms me, I will get down and dirty. And I have no problem allowing a willing “dark” entity to help me out. I’m no bigot when it comes to help offered. In the end, I do not consider witchcraft appropriate for the “nice.” There are other branches of Pagainism for that.

So, yes, I am a bad witch. I’m no Glinda. But if I make an oath to you, unless you break it first (and then woe unto you every Tuesday for a year), I’m bound to you for life. I take it very seriously.

I say this because many of the witches I know are oath breakers. Some by word, some by deed, most by breaking silence. I don’t believe that you, reader, are an oath breaker. But, then again, I do not know you. Do I? You could be the Valmont of your coven, for all I know.

I don’t intend to give instruction on oath breaking; that is to say, I don’t intend for this to be a “how-to” for the treacherous. I figure you’ve got that covered without my help. The point of this blog is to provide, by example, instruction concerning the “why not to” of oath-breaking. Especially if you, like so many, have no teacher or mentor. When you are going it alone, the trouble comes when you don’t have someone to tell you what *not* to do. I figure that there are plenty of books out there to show you how to cast, how to write spells, how to fire sigles, how to call the quarters, and how to celebrate Beltane (with your clothes both on and off). But aside from the obligatory, “harm none,” there seems to be no one willing to record the flipside of magic. And if, as witches, we believe in balance, we must believe in the ever-present-staring-you-in-the-face-the-moment-you-realize-you-should-have-thought-that-through-a-little-better flipside.

This may be because we have, up until now, been trying to propagate the Craft. We have been trying to instruct and we do not want to frighten our would-be pupils away. This may be that we do not want to fuel the fires of anti-Pagan sentiment in the U.S. We do not want to provide any ammunition to those already armed to the teeth against us. It may even be that to tell how a spell went wrong, you might have to tell how the spell was composed and would therefore break silence. Because this is not really a spellbook, I will not be recording whole spells. I will give enough information for you to comprehend the situation without telling you everything. If you are versed in the mysteries, you’ll know exactly what happened without my telling you. If you are not yet initiated, it is not my place to fill you in.

I have sat on the sidelines of many a magical FUBAR (and have, admittedly, been embroiled in a few) and I hope to regal you with a few hours of horrific, if not entertaining, stories about what can go wrong when you are reckless with witchcraft. I’ve known witches who cast carelessly and flagrantly (I call this “driveby casting”), those who betray coven members, those who lie – even in ritual – even to themselves, and those with whom no secret is safe. Sounds like any society, right?  I’ll tell you all of these stories in good time, mind you, but you must realize upfront that an oath-breaking witch is not the same as a snarky eleventh-grader. There are universal penalties to oath breaking. Not that I’m being judgmental. I’ve cast and had stuff backfire all over me like pea soup on Linda Blair’s bedsheets. But I try to own up to it. I try to understand what I did and how to prevent it from happening again. (Sometimes successfully!)  I am, after all, the “Bad Witch” indicated in the title of this blog. Which brings me to a point of semantics.

I do not consider the recording and publication of this blog a broken oath. For two reasons. First, I tell only what is mine tell, I will reveal nothing which is an oath-bound mystery. Much of what I will include has already been scavenged by popular media; T.V. and movies like “Charmed,” “The Witches of Waverly Place,” The Craft and Practical Magic (not to mention Anne Rice) have given the world a glimpse into our world, even if it is a strangely eschewed one. These are, of course, fictions. Second, I reserve the right to a spot near, if not on, the fiction shelf myself. Oh, all I’m about to tell you is true enough. But some stories can only be told by poioumena, metaphor, or allegory. In the words of Ken Kesey, “It’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.” We say that the mysteries are “that which cannot be told” don’t we?

Pleased to meet you.