Making magic when you’re at war with your brain

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Photo by Elena Saharova on Unsplash

When we talk about mental illness in the magical community, we usually talk about how to tell when someone has left the boundaries of religious experience and wandered over into pure hallucinations. When we talk about it at all, which is rare.

This blog has nothing to do with that.What I want to talk about are a couple of other disorders that can affect your practice, and how to work around them.

Depression and anxiety are probably the most common forms of mental illness, but you’ll rarely encounter any discussion of them in books on the craft. That’s a big damned shame, really, because it’s hard to manifest your hopes and dreams when the back of your mind is running over terrible things you said by accident, or all the ways that things have gone wrong in your life and will continue to go wrong.

This probably accounts for a lot of people who try the craft and decide it’s bogus. Focus, as any witchcraft 101 book can tell you, is key. They also tell you about the importance of staying positive, but usually offer no guidance for that part of the journey. I know multiple depressives who have added this to their list of mid-spiral grievances.

I grew up in one of those families where no one knew how to regulate their mood, so I didn’t learn to regulate mine until adulthood. Add to that the anxiety disorder I inherited that runs through my family like blue eyes, and I had some pretty serious disadvantages when I came to the craft.

I learned that sometimes I felt calmer than others, and I tried to avoid casting any spells if I was anxious, since my desires would shift with my mood. I also noticed that if I wasn’t calm it would be very hard to focus. Worse, once I was done with the ritual, I worried about the results, and it seemed to hold me back.

Eventually, I learned how to make magic work  for me. Here’s everything I wish I’d known sooner.

  • Know yourself. If you’re in a terrible mood and you know it will pass, consider working when you feel better. If you have a sincere need now, do something that you know will alter your mood for the better before you work. For some people, upbeat television shows or music will bring enough of a turnaround to complete the work. Figure out what flips that switch for you, even if it’s a short-term shift.
  • Meditate. You may have a harder time focusing on your goals than other practitioners, depending on how much mental traffic you’re currently dealing with. A strong meditation practice will strengthen your ability to tune out the nonsense. Which, honestly, is probably just a good idea in general. The next time your brain helpfully offers you a litany of every time you’ve ever looked stupid, you can tell it to stfu.
  • Affirmate. Daily. When I first heard about affirmations, I laughed at all the people lying to themselves. I gave a couple of canned affirmations a half-hearted shot, was unmoved by them, and then didn’t try again for almost a decade. Oh, the time I missed. Affirmations are essentially spells we cast with only our brains. They can also shift your mood in a pretty powerful way, and sometimes I use them before rituals if I need to change my head space. Write your own, they’ll resonate better. All you need to do is decide your intention, keep it positive, and phrase it as though what you want is already happening. For example, you may choose “I attract wealth in all its forms” or “I am enjoying my happy life.” To make them effective, remember a time when you actually felt like money was rolling your way, or when life was happy. Hang onto those feelings and really feel what you are saying. Then repeat until you believe. Literally. I use prayer beads to help me count.
  • Remember that witches do what they have to do. Witchcraft isn’t for cowards. Don’t be afraid to go to your doctor and ask for help, and if you need medication, take it. Your disorder is rooted in one of your organs (your brain) not functioning optimally. If you need medical assistance to live your best life, get it. You wouldn’t tell someone with asthma to just breathe deeply, or someone with a broken leg to walk it off. Fun fact: when I started taking medication, my magic practice took off. It wasn’t ineffective before, but I could feel how much smoother my work was. My manifestations were bigger and better. I seriously have no regrets.

I hope this helps someone. Everyone deserves to live their best life AND work their best magic.

Does what you do come back to you?

The law of return states that the person caging this tiger is really, really fucked.

Every time I’m a jerk, the universe lets me know.

It just doesn’t always do it in a timely manner.

Often, when life hands me a basket of crap, I’ll realize that I once handed someone else a very similar basket. Didn’t pull my weight on that group assignment in high school? College group work, here we come. Looked at that overweight person and felt sorry for them because I was young and svelte? Well, your lurking hormone imbalance will have something to say about that later. You’ve met the workplace bully? Something familiar about her perhaps? Think back. Farther. Farther.

As I’ve aged, I’ve tried to study these lessons and take them to heart. I feel less jerk-like by the day, and I do seem to get handed fewer unwanted gifts by the universe. The effect is less like a boomerang, and more like a convoluted student play where it never ends and everyone changes roles until they’ve been in each one. And as we shift roles, we learn empathy.  Except for those people who don’t. I’m always on the lookout to see how my theory holds up, so I watch those people carefully. The truth is that once you scratch the surface of their lives, they tend to live in a mess that they don’t understand and are just doing their best to ignore.

The financially successful narcissist has kids who keep him at arm’s length because their therapists recommended it. The psychopath has constructed a world where no one knows her and everyone thinks well of her; except the people she’s hurt. They team up and she eventually loses her job. Also, her wealthy boyfriend won’t marry her, but he can’t put his finger on why he’s too unsettled by her for a wedding band.

For those of us who work magic, I suspect that the stakes are higher. When we take action in the world, we’re often borrowing strength from spirits, gods, elements, the universe at large-put simply, we have helpers. I’ve always thought of it like pushing a tether ball. If you push it alone, it bounces back with the same force you put into it, and you have to deal with that. If you push it with a friend, and your friend steps away, it comes back with all of that force on your lonely self. Bigger push, bigger consequences. When I describe this idea to other practitioners, they often tell me that they’ve come to the same conclusion.

I don’t, however, buy into the idea of a rule of three. I think that just rhymed nicely and made it into our consciousness through skilled marketing. Most of the other people I ask also don’t buy into it. The general belief seems to be that you’ll get yours, just not in triplicate.

Some people say that they don’t buy into the idea of return at all. But I don’t know any of them or their traditions well enough to say whether they suffer for this belief, or can do what they like, free of the cosmic tether balls to the face that the rest of us are subject to.

What is your take on the idea of return?