Pathworking I

In this series of posts I’m going to share my process for pathworking.  This first post will focus on the steps I take to prepare for the journey.

In popular usage, pathworking is a term used to describe any meditative visualized journey through an inner landscape.  Originally, pathworking was a technique derived from the Qabalah.  In the Qabalistic system, a pathworking is a journey along the 22 paths of the Tree of Life.  Each path has specific symbolism and landscape, and corresponds to one of the 22 tarot cards in the major arcana.  These inner journeys were undertaken to gain information, instruction, and to meet and work with entities associated with the Tree of Life.

I use the term pathworking in the more modern sense –  to describe any creative visualization that involves traveling through an inner landscape.

More often than not, I do pathworking for a specific intent, rather than traveling to a place of contemplation or just to see where I end up and what happens when I get there.  For contemplation, doing my breathing, relaxation and centering techniques are more than enough to put me in the proper condition for such meditative processes.

What are suitable intents for pathworking, besides that which I already mentioned above?  Past life work is one example of pathworking, as is the tarot meditation I wrote about in this post.  Discovering and meeting guides is another intention that can fall under the term of pathworking.

Before I do any meditation or pathworking I do a series of exercises to prepare myself for the work.  I prefer to lay down when I meditate, but if I need to sit, I will do so in a chair, my forearms resting on my thighs, with my hands on my knees.  I never meditate sitting on the floor with legs crossed or in the lotus position.  This is just personal preference.  As I cannot fall asleep on my back, lying down isn’t a problem.  If you can fall asleep on your back, and can fall asleep easily, this may not be the best position for you.

I begin with the fourfold breath.  This is an easy breathing technique that involves breathing in on a count of four, holding in the breath for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and finally no air for a count of four, repeating as many times as necessary.  The key to this breathing exercise is to breath deeply, much more deeply than you’re used to.  You want to get oxygen into the lowest part of your lungs, and you’ll know you’ve achieved this because your abdomen will distend much more than it does during regular breathing.  When you exhale, you want to do so from the abdomen, pushing all that air from the deepest part of your lungs out.

The four count can be a fast or as slow as you wish (or can manage).  Keep in mind, the faster your count, the more likely you are to get lightheaded and dizzy.

Once I’m calm and grounded and as relaxed as I feel I’m going to get at this step, I move on to the lightbody exercise.

Beginning at the soles of the feet, visualize white light radiating from them as you feel the tingling life-force.  See that light encompass your entire feet, feel them relax and go limp.  Move up to the ankles, calves and thighs, relaxing the muscles as you do so.  At this point, also see this brilliant white light at the tips of your fingers, slowly moving up to the palms of your hands, letting them relax, then visualize the light continuing to move up your arms, the muscles relaxing as the white light continues upwards. Seeing it moving up your torso, the muscles in your body getting more and more relaxed.  Bring the light up into your shoulders.  Spend time here relaxing the muscles.  We hold so much stress in the shoulders, so you will want to pay particular focus here.  Feel the tension release from your shoulders, and when ready, move the light up into your neck, then your face.  Slowly feel your facial muscles go slack before moving to the base of your neck where it meets the neck, and the back of your head.  Feel the stress and tension dissipate, then see the white light move up to the crown of your head.

At this point, you should be so relaxed that your awareness of your physical body and its surroundings is diminished.  However, if you’re still feeling somewhat present in your body and environment, spend some time visualizing the white light as a cocoon around you as you focus on relaxing muscles and calming the mind.

Next we’re going to do what I call the rainbow descent.  Visualize yourself sitting in the lotus position in a sea of red.  Your body is red, all you can see is red.  If you’re having a problem seeing the colour, imagine something commonly red, like an apple.  See it in your mind’s eye clearly, then let the apple grow until it’s so large, all you can see is red.  Do this for each colour that you’re having difficulties in seeing.

Feel yourself slowly floating downwards, more and more and more.  Begin to see the red change to orange.  Your body is also orange.  All you can see is orange.  Continue to feel yourself descend, slowly, gently, down and down and down.

Now everything is yellow, all you can see is yellow as you continue your gentle descent downwards, going ever deeper, your awareness of your body and environment slipping away more and more and more.

See the field of yellow give way to green.  Your body is green, all you can see is green, as you continue to float deeper and deeper, the green slowly changing to blue.  You’re so deep now that you can’t feel your body.  It’s as unsubstantial as air as you continue to float down and down and down.

See the blue dissolve into violet.  Your body is violet, and everything around you is violet.  Continue your descent down, floating in a sea of violet that changes into indigo.  Continue to floating gently and easily downwards into the darkness of indigo.  Down and down and down.

Gently, your body comes to rest in what feels like soft clouds.  You are clam, relaxed, and totally unaware of your body and environment.  See yourself inside a sphere.  It’s large enough that you can stand up in.  The inner walls of the sphere are opaque, you can’t see beyond them.  They can be of any colour, and can be shiny or matte.  This is not important.  What is important is that this sphere is your entryway into the astral.  From this point you can travel anywhere you wish.  From this point you can return to the waking world.  You can call up this sphere wherever you are in your pathworking.  You don’t need to retrace your steps unless the pathworking calls for it.  You can enter and exit it at any time.  This is your place, and it is a safe space.

This is my process that I have been using for well over 20 years.  You can follow it as described, or alter it to your needs/desires.  The important thing is that the process gets you out of your body and waking consciousness and into the inner worlds.

In upcoming pathworking posts, I’ll share inner journeys for past life work, meeting guides, building an astral temple, and performing astral magic.  In the meantime, practice these three techniques until your comfortable with them.

 

What I’m Reading

I always have at least one book on the go, regardless of the time of year or how busy I am with work.  But with more time on my hands these past few weeks, I get the opportunity to read even more than usual.  Here are the books that are stacked at my favourite place to read, right next to the fire.

Descendant by Bob Freeman (I’m giving this one a second read)

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Descendant by Bob Freeman

Descendant is a supernatural thriller filled with daring action, adventure, and artifice set against the backdrop of a very familiar world – but it is a world in which preternatural entities, clandestine magical orders, ancient bloodlines, and unholy alliances converge within the shadowed recesses of our darkest imaginings.

Federal Agents Selina Wolfe and Martin Crowe are called in to investigate a series of bizarre deaths in a small rural community.  What first seems to be a misadventure involving black magic and satanic ritual soon takes on even more deleterious overtones, as the agents become embroiled in a plot by a sinister cabal intent on unleashing Hell on Earth.

Help the Witch by Tom Cox (Just finished this one and I’ll do a proper book review on it)

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Help the Witch by Tom Cox

Riddled with talismans and portents, saturated by shadows beneath trees and whispers behind doors, these ten short stories broaden the scope of folk tales as we know them.  Inspired by our native landscapes and traversing boundaries of the past and the future, this collection is Tom Cox’s first foray into fiction.  Funny, strange and poignant, he elicits the unexpected and unseen to raise our hackles and set imaginations whirring.

Aleister Crowley and the Practice of the Magical Diary

This important collection includes Aleister Crowley’s two most important instructional writings on the design and purpose of the magical diary, John St. John and A Master of the Temple. These were the only two works regarding the magical diary published in Crowley’s lifetime. Both were first published in Crowley’s immense collection of magical instruction, The Equinox. John St. John chronicles Crowley’s moment by moment progress during a 13 day magical working. Crowley referred to it as “a perfect model of what a magical record should be.” A Master of the Temple is taken from the magical diary of Frater Achad at a time when he was Crowley’s most valued and successful student. It provides an invaluable example of a student’s record, plus direct commentary and instruction added by Crowley.  With commentary and introductory material by editor James Wasserman, Aleister Crowley and the Practice of the Magical Diary is the most important and accessible instruction available to students of the occult regarding the practice of keeping a magical diary.  This revised edition includes a new introduction by Wasserman, a foreword by noted occult scholar J. Daniel Gunther, revisions throughout the text, a revised reading list for further study, plus Crowley’s instructions on banishing from Liber O.

Grimoire of Aleister Crowley

Group ritual has been a cornerstone of spiritual practice since time immemorial, yet its history and importance have often been overlooked by occultists of the modern age. This book is the first comprehensive presentation of group-oriented rites for modern magicians inspired by the works of Aleister Crowley. It contains rituals written by Crowley for his own magic circles, many of them unpublished during his lifetime, plus rare ancient texts that were Crowley’s own inspiration.

The rituals are newly edited and explained by Rodney Orpheus, who brings to this volume decades of experience in performing and teaching Aleister Crowley’s rituals within Crowley’s magical order Ordo Templi Orientis. He introduces each ritual with a clear overview, setting each in its historical context and explaining its function and mode of operation, and includes detailed notes on the setting and performance of each one.

Whether absolute beginner or seasoned expert, magicians of all paths will find this volume to be an eminently workable and extremely powerful grimoire spanning centuries from ancient Mithraic and Bacchanalian rites, Goetia, and Gnosticism, right up to present day Crowleyan invocations and sexual magick.

Hitler’s Monsters by Eric Kurlander

Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition by William J. Kiesel

Magic Circles have been depicted in popular expressions of magic and witchcraft as well as detailed with full rubrics in traditional manuals of magic such as the Clavicula Solomonis or Liber Juratus.  Using narrative, visual and textual material available from European grimoires and manuscripts, the author discusses the various forms and functions of this important piece of apparatus employed by magicians in the Western Esoteric Tradition, including their role in providing authority and protection to the operator, as well as examples of their use in divination and treasure finding.  Additionally, contemporary examples of the magic circle at work in modern esoteric praxis are provided and discussed in light of the traditional approaches they exhibit. This monograph serves to explicate this important tool of ceremonial magic and is valuable to practitioners of the art magical with its technical data, while also providing context in historical settings for the merely curious reader of occult subjects. Illustrated throughout.

As an aside, don’t expect a ‘What I’m Watching’ post.  I don’t watch enough TV to make that an interesting post.

 

What I’m Listening To

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Vindsvept – The YouTube Collection

I’m a news junkie, I like having it on in the background.  I love-hate politics, so I enjoy the political coverage.  I think it’s important to keep up-to-date on what’s happening in the world.  But with the news coverage focused solely on the Coronavirus (for good reason), it’s getting to be a bit much, and I’ll be honest, boring.  So the TV is staying off more and more lately, and instead I’m enjoying all of my favourite music.

I listen to Vindsvept a lot!  The artist is a young man from Sweden that makes the most beautiful folk music, which is available on Bandcamp here.  He has four musical collections available, ranging in price from $4 USD to $20 USD, although you can be generous and pay more, if you wish.  I love the YouTube Collection because he adds to it bi-weekly, and you can update your download without paying extra for the new songs in the collection.

Oh, and he just had a baby, so I’m sure he’ll appreciate you buying some of his music now more than ever.

But the main reason why I love the YouTube Collection is because I love folk music.  There are some great songs in there that work well for meditation and ritual.  But even better, his music is ideal for ttrpg’s.  Give a good listen, and you’ll find songs perfect for wilderness scenarios, town scenarios, battles, and victory/end of campaign music.

Windswept Realms is becoming my go-to for meditation, as each volume is an hour in length, making it ideal.

For something darker, I put on Sigillum Diaboli by Lamia Vox, which you can also find on Bandcamp here.

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Sigillum Diaboli by Lamia Vox

From her Bandcamp page:

We are taken on a journey where Sabbatic fires burn into the night, incense smoke dances around the sorcerer’s circle and while whispered incantations are delivered. The album alchemically combines ritualistic elements with vocals and chants, martial percussion, combined with haunting ambient soundscapes, creating its own ceremonial atmosphere.

It’s dark ambient at it’s best, and definitely worth the €7 (or more)!

My musical tastes run the gamut, and I can write a book length post on the artists I love to listen to (that would probably get really boring really fast), but I’ll just stick to my ‘happy place’ albums that I couldn’t live without:

Esthero – Breath From Another – feel free to disagree, but she has the most beautiful voice ever!  Angels weep at the knowledge that their singing is no more than the sound of toads croaking compared to her.  Plus, she’s such a wonderful person (and a fellow Canadian!)

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Breath From Another by Esthero

In This Moment – Black Widow

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Black Widow by In This Moment

Marilyn Manson – Mechanical Animals

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Mechanical Animals by Marilyn Manson

Imogen Heap – Speak For Yourself

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Camouflage – Sensor

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Sensor by Camouflage

Is there something you think I should be listening to?  Let me know

 

 

 

Daily Practice – Learning Your Craft

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With more time being spent at home, now is a great time to learn more about different aspects about your craft.  This can be anything that you have an interest in – the magickal properties of herbs, crystals, learning tarot, numerology, gematria, astrology, etc.  Some of these subjects can seem daunting, but if you take things small step by small step, before you know it, you’ll be on your way to being an expert.

If learning more about herbs is your thing, pick one herb a day to learn about.  Use your books and the internet and read all you can.  Here are the key things you will want to discover:

  • the magickal usages of the herb
  • the planet associated with the herb
  • the zodiac sign
  • the element associated with it
  • it’s qualities (feminine/masculine, hot/cold, wet/dry)

Then, read up on it’s mundane and medicinal qualities.  You’ll often see a correlation between it’s medicinal and magickal usage.  Look at pictures of the herb – it doesn’t hurt to be able to identify the plants you’re using in your magick out in the wild.

Like the herbs, you can learn tarot by taking it one card at a time.  Start with the major arcana, then move on to the minor arcana.  Study the cards in their order – with the major arcana, that’s cards 0 to 21.  For the minor arcana, start with ace through 10, then the court cards.  Do one suit at a time.  Key things to know about the cards:

  • it’s placement on the Tree of Life
  • the element associated with the card
  • the zodiac sign
  • the planet
  • it’s meaning in regular and reversed position
  • it’s qualities for use as a significator card
  • the element associated with the four suits

For use as a meditative tool, there are other aspects to the card you will want to learn about:

  • it’s placement on the Tree of Life
  • the zodiac sign associated with the card
  • the planet associated with the card
  • the active and passive elements associated with each card

Once you’ve done your research and you have your ‘cliff notes’, you’ll be able to use these notes as your learning tools and reference material.

Yes, you can spend as many days as you want on one card, or herb, or crystal until you’re satisfied with your memorization, but keep in mind that you’ll soon have a lot of information about a lot of cards, herbs, etc., and that your memory of their qualities will get fuzzy.  It’s putting what you’ve learned into action that solidifies the information in your head.  Once you start making incenses and oils, or start doing tarot readings or meditations, and do these things on a fairly regular basis, you’ll begin to become truly well-versed and confident in the subject.  It takes time a patience, but you can do it!

 

 

 

Daily Practice – Altar Maintenance

018Maintaining your altar(s) is another great way to incorporate spiritual activities into your daily life.  A quick wipe down, watering (or replacing flowers), topping up the water in your water bowl or chalice, are simple things that reinforce your commitment to your practice (as well as keeping your altar looking fantastic).

Doing these activities (I don’t want to call them chores or jobs) gives me the perfect excuse to then light my altar candles and some incense, and give myself the opportunity to ground and centre, breathe deeply, and recharge with a few minutes spent in quiet meditation.

If you have an altar to a patron deity, this daily ritual maintenance shows your respect and dedication to them, and again, after you’ve completed that task is an ideal time to light some incense and perform whatever small ritual you do in honour to them.

I keep a very simple altar at the moment, so it’s very easy for me to remove what’s on it for a daily wipe down.  Some people have altars that are overflowing with items important to them and their practice, making the task of daily cleaning a real chore.  That’s OK!  Instead of removing everything off the altar every day, pick one or two items to dust each day, and save the deep clean for a monthly task.

Will you miss a day?  Of course.  Does that make you a bad pagan?  Absolutely not!  Life happens, despite our best intentions.  Don’t beat yourself up over it, but also don’t let it throw you off and mess with your dedication and commitment to daily spiritual practice, because you know that’s the first thing to fall by the wayside when life gets too messy.

 

Daily Practice – Tarot Meditation

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The Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot by Chic & Tabitha Cicero

Mediation is a great addition to your daily practice, one that has measurable and proven positive effects on the health and well being of an individual.  It’s not a difficult thing to do, nor does it have to been a time consuming activity.  Even just 10 or 15 minutes a day can make a world of difference.

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The Hermetic Tarot by Godfrey Dowson

Meditation can be done is a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes.  Sometimes we meditate to clear the mind and relax.  Sometimes we do pathworking, or guided meditations.  Sometimes we meditate on an idea or concept in search of enlightenment.

The tarot is a great meditative tool, a story that depicts an individuals spiritual journey, the gaining of experience through the various life-lessons one is presented with, undergoing a transformation and perfecting of the soul.

Each card is a world in miniature,  each as rich in symbolism and allegory as when all the cards are laid out together.  Alone, they lose none of their mystery or power.  Each have their story to tell, lessons to convey, and answers to impart.

We can use the tarot in meditation to gain a better understanding of the images and meanings each card holds.  Imagine each card as a gate, one that once opened, gives you access to a realm of experience unique to that card and it’s symbolism.

You don’t need any prior experience with tarot to do this meditation, although having a book on tarot that explores it’s symbolism and meanings will be helpful, as you will see.

We’re going to start with The Fool, card 0, and work our way through the major arcana to The World, card 21, meditating on one card each day.  You can spend as much or as little time as you wish, but do try to set aside 10 – 15 minutes each day for this.  If you can meditate at the same time each day, so much the better.

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The Fool, from left to right: The Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, The Hermetic Tarot, The Rider-Waite Tarot, and The Thoth Deck

Hold the card and look at the image as a whole.  Spend a minute on this, then focus on the colours, then after another minute of this, focus on the symbols.  Once you’ve done this, look at the whole image once again.

Close your eyes.  Visualize the card in your hand – the figure(s), the colours, the symbols.  Once you’ve got this image as firm in your mind as you think you can, open your eyes and again look at the card.  Is there anything you missed in your visualization?  If so, focus on those features in the image, then close you eyes and see the card once again.  Repeat this until you have the best visualization of the card as you feel you’re going to get.

Spend a few minutes on the image in your mind.  If you catch your thoughts wandering, acknowledge it, then return your focus back to the image and forget about your ‘screw up’.

When ready, imagine yourself moving towards the image of the card in your mind.  See it getting bigger and bigger until it appears to be life-sized.  Now, step into the image and see it come to life.  Don’t force anything, just experience it.  What you will see/experience will be unique to you as this isn’t a pathworking/guided meditation.  Spend as much time in this world as you wish as long as you remain comfortable in the experience.

Once you’re ready to end the meditation, image yourself stepping out of your experience, seeing the life-sized image of the card once again.  See if shrink as you move away from it.  When ready, open your eyes.

Record your experience.  Once you’ve done that, open up your tarot book and read the meaning of the card.  Does your experience of the card correlate with its meaning?  If it doesn’t don’t worry, you didn’t make an error somewhere in your meditation.  This is an experience that is unique to you, and can inform your future use and interpretations of the tarot.

Repeat this meditation with each successive card in the major arcana.  If you feel the need to repeat the meditation with the same card a second or third time before moving on to the next, it’s OK to do so.

And I repeat…record your experience!!!

 

Daily Practice – Daily Devotions

WU68074_1Daily devotions are a great way to maintain a spiritual practice even on the busiest, most hectic days.  It’s a brief moment of peace, a quiet moment of centering and focusing.

I perform four devotions each day – sunrise (actually when I wake up), noontime, sunset, and midnight.  Prior to me working from home, the noontime, and sometimes the sunset, devotions had to be done wherever I could manage.  This often meant reciting the devotion in my head in a public bathroom stall.

A commuter on public transit may have to do likewise on a packed bus or train.  It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing, and the dedication to your daily practice whenever and wherever you happen to be ensures that you maintain that practice, that you don’t slip back into the habit of not having a regular spiritual routine.

Your devotions can be the same memorized chant each day, or can be impromptu.  You can do two, or three, or like myself, four.  That is all dependent upon you, although I would recommend doing the same number of devotions each day.

Below are four Egyptian devotions I like to perform.

sunrise

noon

sunset

midnight