Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chapter 26 – Magic, the Astral Plane, the Law of Return

Owen was standing out in front of his new pathway smiling. As she pulled into the driveway and looked over the work that had been done on Owen’s yard she thought it still looked so stark and new. It wouldn’t look anything like the picture she had in her head until much later in the season or even next year. Their vision of what the garden would look like had been so expansive she was almost afraid Owen would be disappointed.

She got out and shut the door of the truck and said, as he looked over the newly installed path, “Well what do you think?”
“I think that I'm going to have to find other work for Latasha's grandson this summer.” And he waved his hand. "No more grass for him to cut." And she smiled knowing how he did his best to take care of the people in his life.

It was Thursday and she had taken a half day off from work so she could be at Owen's at the crack of dawn to make sure the guys understood where she wanted the larger plants placed and give some general guidelines on how she had learned to put the plants in ground and why this made long term maintenance easier and helped them survive in heat of summer. Then she went off to work for the rest of the day, while these larger plants went in. It has been really hard to walk away and let someone else dig in the mud, but Owen had more than enough people to do the work and she knew it wouldn't be good if she hovered. She was now back at Owen's that same afternoon, early enough to take a look the work that had been done and to place the smaller plants so that the guys could finish the planting on Friday. She had chased Owen off. He wanted to help but his hovering wasn’t really helpful so she finally said, “Owen, This is one of those times where you can’t help, any more than you could help an artist paint a picture. The pots are small and easy to carry and place. I got it.” And knowing that kissing him made all the difference gave him a light kiss. He smiled and realized just how much he was hovering. So he went in side and ordered Port of Call hamburgers and was now off picking up their dinner. When he returned she was finishing setting the roses in the front yard. She was pleased with what she saw except that there wasn't enough mulch. As he met her in the drive way she said, “The plantings look good. I thought we had gone a little light on the mulch so I picked up another truck load on my way from work. I’ve set them where they’re most needed. The guys know that I’m looking for about 2 – 3 inches of mulch in all the bare areas. Mulch now equals less work later.” And she waved her arm around so he would look at the yard. He stood there looking at how quickly the pots had been dispersed and how different the yard looked already.
“Please tell Maurice and Larry thank you for the string on the walls for the vines. It’s absolutely perfect.” She turned to him and said, “It’s going to look a little paltry and stark for a while as the plants dig in and fill out. But they will as long as you water consistently” and she smiled then said, “but not too much. It’s all about the balance.”
“Don’t worry, your creation will be just fine. All it needs is a little time. When we walk away from a job, with all its fresh paint and straight lines and no furniture, it’s the same feeling. Time makes a home. Time makes a garden.”
She looked at him impressed and then brushed of her hands and said, “That’s beautiful Owen. I was a little worried about what you thought.” And she sighed, “Now you better take me inside or I will stay out here wandering from plant to plant and waste all evening.”
He grinned at her and they walked back to the kitchen. He handed her a glass of the Ruffino Galestro Griffe.
“Oh the Galestro… You know I looked that up and it’s not a grape. It’s essentially Italian for Schist.”
And he looked at her with eyebrows raised.
“Sorry, geologist term… Schist… metamorphic rock, slates, mudstones... it makes for dry rocky soils.”
He was surprised, “You said the wine tasted like it came from dry rocky soils.”
“Well how about that? It does.” And she smiled at him. “And it tastes good too. I looked up Griffe too. If I’ve googled correctly then the wine is Ruffino’s ‘Designer Label’ Galestro. Apparently Galestro is a common soil type in wine regions in Italy and Ruffino created a designer label wine from this harsh soil.” She took a sip and smiled at him.
As they ate dinner he thought about how she could taste the kind of soil the grape had been grown… How it seemed she paid attention to everything and bothered to learn about the smallest things…like a word she didn’t recognize on a wine label…

As they were finishing up dinner, he said, “The pool guys called today. They confirmed they're starting on Monday. It's going to be at least a week before you can work your magic on the back yard.”
“Perfect lead in.”
He looked at her quizzically.
“I had planned to talk about Aradia’s Words on Magic tonight. Where would you like for us to settle?”
“It's a beautiful night out so how about the front porch. If I try to keep you inside your mind will just be out there anyway. Or will the plants be too distracting to you?” he teased.
She teased back and said with mock seriousness, “Oh, I don’t know,” and sighed, “But I'll do my best to stay focused.” Then thought practically, “Is there enough light to read out there?”
“Yep, The overhead is on a rheostat but turning it up to reading light will make it too harsh. We can move the lamp from the Library to the porch, I’ve done it before.”
“Ok Chief.”
“Chief, was what my pipefitter grandfather called anyone who was in charge or designing a project. It was his way of saying the plan was good. Let’s do it.”
“Ok Chief.”

She stood holding their glasses of wine and the wine bottle while Owen set up the chairs, table and lamp from the library. When he was done and settled she was still standing there looking out at the garden. Owen had settled in the chair and was waiting and watching her watch the garden, then he cleared his throat.
“Oh, I’m sorry."
He teased again, “I don’t know, this might just be more than you handle.”
She smiled at him and said, “Don’t sass your teacher. Where’s the manual?”
He grinned at her and waved the Manual, which had been face down on the table open to Aradia’s Words on Magic. “Shall I read for us?”
She settled in the chair, sipped the wine and said, “Please.”
He read,
“There is a force which dwells in all things, which is called the Numen. The power of an object is the power of its Numen. This essence has, of its own accord, a definite consciousness. If you are in harmony with the Ways, then you may call upon any Numen which you desire, and it will assist you. This is but one aspect of Magickal rapport.”

Numen is a concept that spans many cultures. In anthropological circles it is often referred to as mana, a term that comes from the South Pacific. It is thought of as an unseen force which can interact with and influence our lives. I think of it as a critical component of the web of life. When you are aware of and plugged into the web of life you feel the mana or numen and you can work with these forces. The elementals are another kind of force. We'll get to them later." She looked at him as if to ask, Do you have questions. But Owen hadn't formed any so he kept reading.

Know that all things of the same nature (or essence) are as links in a chain. Through one you may influence the other. By this law do we make use of clay puppets. Yet even the mind is linked by thoughts and has power to reach out on its own.
Nola said, "Links in a chain, the web of life. The book 'The Web of Life' by Fritjof Capra outlines, as a scientist, just how this web of life works and how connected we moderns rarely realize our world and our actions are. Have you read it?
"No, He's the same guy who wrote the 'Tao of Physics' right?"
Nola smiled as she appreciated the fact that Owen was exceptionally well read. "Same guy. 'The Web of Life' was written after the 'Tao of Physics.' I'll bring it next time if you're interested in reading it?
"Woman, I'm interested in reading everything you recommend.
She smiled at him and said, "Be careful what you ask for."

He smiled and kept reading.
The substance of Magick is best controlled and directed through the use of ritual. Ritual attracts power and through repetition it is accumulated.
"Like most things you get better at magic with practice. Ritual is part of the training program for interacting with the web of life."
Owen kept reading,
"Certain channels of power are formed through ritual, which becomes a link to a desired response or contact. Thus do we make use of the secret signs, symbols and gestures (which are empowered). Repetition is necessary as well as consistency."
She smiled and said, "When the musician asked, 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall?' He was told, 'Practice. Practice. Practice.' "

and Owen smiled as he read,
"As Strega, we draw power down from the Moon and also do we draw power from Nature. The God and Goddess oversee our works, as do the Grigori. When our Magick does not produce the desired effects, it is because a greater power resists its power. This is often a sign that the nature of the Magick was improper. Yet it can be that another Strega works against you. If this becomes the matter, then seek this person out and resolve your differences."
"I've seen many people read this and think, 'oooo those other witches they are stopping my magic from working'. I like to think of this as a safety net. If I am doing magic and it might not be best for me or others or even accomplish what I want, then the Grigori are looking out for me. If I have rapport and connection to them then they will stop me from hurting myself. As for the rest, confrontation bothers some people, not me. I have no problem talking to someone who may disagree with me. So seeking someone out to resolve differences isn't a stretch. But it can be for others. The advice is sound regardless of whether the differences are about magic or the more mundane." And she looked at him waiting for a comment but he just kept reading.

"Understand that you must always work in harmony with the phases of the Moon, under the blessings of the God and Goddess and in accordance with the laws and ways."
We'll talk about the Law of Return a little later.

He nodded and kept reading:
"The Moon symbolizes the hidden things revealed in darkness. The night is the side of life which is unknown. The light of the Moon is subtle and active on hidden levels. So too is our Magick."
Many folks want to "do magic" and think its all about the tools and techniques. They think if they have the right spell and the right stuff then anyone can say the magic words and make it happen. Magic is more subtle.

He kept reading:
"The powers which are obtained through the knowledge of the Old Ways are neither good nor evil, it is only the way in which you use them that is good or evil."
When I first started studying I bumped heads with my teacher over this concept. I was personalizing things too much. I know that there are some people who are evil. There is no explanation or excuse for what they do. But this passage isn't about people. People can have evil intent. This passage is about the powers or energy in the web of life, about the numen, about the laws of nature. These are neither good nor evil. It is our intentions that can be good or evil, sound or misguided. It's the way we interact with these forces that are good or evil not the innate and essential forces themselves. Energy is energy. It can provide power to your light your bulb or split a tree. There is no evil or good innate in the energy itself."

And Owen thought to himself that at it was good to hear that Nola had struggled with a concept. So often she seemed to have absorbed the concepts so completely and woven it so thoroughly into who she was that it was hard to know where the concept stopped and Nola started. She saw him thinking and sipped her wine while she waited for the question.

But he kept reading.
The mind is most receptive to the influence of power when the person is intoxicated or asleep (within two hours of awakening). This is true also of trance, which is induced through chant and dance.
And Owen stopped and said, "Well I can vouch for that. Papa Eric definitely knows how to reach me when I am drowsy or asleep."

Then he read,
"The mind which dreams (the subconscious) is directly linked to the Moon Worlds (the Astral Realms) just as the mind which knows the daylight (the conscious mind) is directly linked to the Physical World. It is through the dream mind that the Moon Worlds are contacted. It is through the Moon Worlds that Magickal influences and Magickal forms, are created. These in turn, influence the Physical World."
"You mind is a powerful part of what is necessary to do Magic. But while your conscious mind which interacts with the physical world is important and you must have conscious intent, it is your subconscious mind that links best with the powers of numen, the plane of forces, the Astral."
And she made the Triangle of Manifestation with her hands, then separated her hands still holding the shapes necessary to make the triangle and gestured with her right hand,
"To do Magic, you have to have intent, with your conscious mind on the physical plane" and she wiggled her right thumb.
"But this intent needs to mingle with your subconscious, with numen, be reinforced, or sometimes restrained, by the Gods and Grigori." And she touched the tops of the pointing fingers of her right hand with the tips of her left. "You have to link the Physical to the Astral."
Then she put her left hand up in the shape necessary to make the Triangle of Manifestation. "When Magic works the result comes from the Astral," and she touched the tops of the fingers of her left hand with the right, "and return to the Physical Plane." Then she wiggled the thumb of her left hand. And then she put her hands together and created the Triangle of Manifestation and wiggled her right thumb. "You send it to the Astral, it mingles with the hidden forces and then returns to the physical plane. And she wiggled her left thumb.

"Wow, I've seen you make the Triangle of Manifestation a bunch of times but I really didn't realize how powerful that symbol was until just now."
And she nodded and smiled at him while he sat there still looking a little surprised. So she looked out at the garden again, took a sip of her wine and let him soak it in.

She felt him stir in his chair and his thoughts settle back into his body and he smiled at her and started reading again,
"It is the purpose of symbols to speak to the dream mind, and plant the Magickal seeds which will manifest. It is the purpose of rituals(and spells) to establish the patterns of power. These patterns are established to either draw upon power or to raise power (or both)."
And he said, "Triangle of Manifestation, symbols repeated through ritual. I think I get it now." She smiled with the delight a teacher gets when the pupil catches on.

And he read,
"Magickal and ritual correspondences are incorporated to take advantage of the Numen qualities in objects, times of power, links to Deities, and states of consciousness (awareness)."
And she said, "The web of life again, the cycles of the season, learning to be still and listen so we can make the connection and participate in the web."

Owen nodded and read:
"The art of Magick is a blending of inner or personal power with that of the natural powers and divine powers."
Witches, Streghe do Magic because this blending and joining becomes a innate part of how we and our inner and personal power or consciousness interact with the natural and the divine. At the Summer Solstice we are called upon directly to do Magic to heal the earth. Magic is a part of our religion.

And Owen sat back in his chair and took a sip of wine thinking out loud, "You're going to tell me you want me to do Magic."
"Well, I want you to think about doing Magic. I want you to understand how Magic and the Ways work together. I want you to understand what Magic is and what Magic isn't."
"But I'm not so sure I really want to do Magic."
"Really? Most folks who get into this stuff can't wait."
"Well, I'm not most folks."
And she smiled at him and said, "No, Owen you're not." And then she let him think about it some more. Then she said, "I'm not asking you to twitch your nose right now."
"Twitch my nose, you mean like Samantha in 'Bewitched'?"
And she nodded and grinned, "Didn't everyone who saw 'Bewitched’ want to be able to twitch their nose and have what they wanted happen? That's just what I call it when I do Magic or even how I refer to doing ritual. When I need a little alone time to do ritual or interact with the Lare Shrine, I'll say to James and Jamie that I'm going to twitch my nose."
"So you're nose twitching right now?"
"Well, not exactly but I did say, " 'I'm off to Owen's to twitch my nose', when I left the house tonight."
And he smiled at that and she said, "Shall we read Aradia's Words on the Astral Plane?"

He picked up the book and read,
"The Astral World, through the Plane of Forces, receives the thoughts and vibrations of actions from the Physical World. Just as solid materials are used to create objects in our world Thoughts and vibrations create etheric object on the Astral Plane."
And he remembered her Triangle of Manifestation and wiggling her thumbs along the base of the triangle to indicate the Physical World and the apex of the Triangle where her fingers touched and said, "I think the Triangle of Manifestation is a very powerful tool. That symbol and how you used your hands to describe is exact what this refers to.
And she smiled and nodded at him indicating silently, You got it, exactly.

And he kept reading
"Therefore, what people strongly believe in enough can be created astrally. This is one method by which ritual Magick is performed. Energy is first raised with a specific purpose in mind, then it is given up to the Plane of Forces, where it is drawn and channeled to the Astral World, and so obtains a thought form."
He looked up and she said,
"So you generate energy yourself and/or you connect to it as numen in the web of life and/or you connect to the energy from the Grigori and the Gods and you send it to the Astral where it becomes a thing, a thought form on the Astral. This Thought Form exists in the Astral before it returns to interact on the physical plane. Sometimes I find it a bit scary to thing that what people believe strongly enough can be created astrally. I think about all the people whose view of the world is so different from mine, so unaligned with the web of life and I worry. I think this is exactly why Streghe are charged once a year at the Summer Solstice to do Magic to heal the earth. We do it to counter act the Thought Forms that might not have the Earth's best of intentions at their core."
And Owen thought and said out loud, "Well that is something when you think about it like that. You really think that everyone can interact with the Astral?"
"Sure why not? The component parts exist whether people realize it or not. Some people are more naturally talented than others. Remember that scene in the first Harry Potter where Harry is at the Zoo and he sees the snake and connects with it and feels strongly that it would be good if the snake could get free and then suddenly the glass is gone and the snake is free. Natural talent." And she saw Owen grin remembering the scene and said, "Sure it's a novel but it illustrates the point pretty well don't you think?"
"Yep, it sure does. Just don't tell Pat Robertson it's possible."
"Oh well in some ways Pat Robertson already knows. What do you think Christians are doing when they pray?"
And he sat there and thought about it a minute. "Interacting with the Astral?"
"Yuk." and he wrinkled his nose.
And she chuckled, "I know, right? Scary.” Then said seriously, “But it again only illustrates that these concepts and the component parts are there for anyone to apply."

She could see him thinking ‘Hmmm.’ And waited until he returned to the book and read,
“The true purpose of the Astral Plan is to prepare us for future lives and existences by burning out (purifying) or exhausting, all of our fears, desires and false concepts. These bind us to the lower worlds. So it is our afterlife experiences in the lower astral world which transforms us.”
This is to remind us that while the Astral is a critical part of how we do Magic it's not the Astral's primary purpose. The Astral is there to ensure that we have a place to work out the lessons of physical life, to learn from these so that we can be transformed, learn and grow.

And Owen said, "So the concept of reincarnation is integral to Stregheria."
"Yes, absolutely. I've always thought that reincarnation made a lot of sense. In science we have the carbon cycle, the water cycle, the sedimentary cycle...." and she waved her hand in the air to indicate many others. "Reincarnation is simply the soul cycle."
"Well that's an oddly logical way to look at it."
And she thought 'oddly logical', but said, "Do you think that reincarnation is possible? Have you ever felt like you've had something from a previous life influence this one?"
"Well, I don't know. It's odd, sometimes I think that the reason why I'm in New Orleans is because I have to be here to complete something. But I do believe that we humans are more than just our physical parts. I think that we have, for want of a better word, a soul. I like the way you put it, a Soul Cycle. Yes, I think there is a soul cycle."

And she had so much she could say on this topic that she knew she could get them of course so she said nothing and he decided to continue reading,
"The Astral World is under the Divine Law of Cause and Effect, action and reaction. It is the essence of the Three-fold Law."
"We'll read the Aradia's Words on the Law of Cause and Effect next."

So he kept reading ,
"The Astral Planes contain all the heavens and hells which followers of all religions believe in. They will experience what they believe awaits them."
"In short we create our own heavens and our own hells. 'What Dreams May Come' is a fascinating and sad movie, with Robin Williams, of all people, that illustrates this concept exceptionally well. I use it as a teaching tool but really don't like watching it myself. I'll watch with you if you want but you're going to have to talk me into sitting through that one with you."
Owen said, "Ok, I'll keep that in mind. Although if you don't like it why do you recommending it?
"Oh, it's not that I don't like it. The movie is really well done. It's just that watching someone create their own hell and then watching what that does to the people around them is hard to take. It's a very powerful movie."
And Owen thought she actually looked stressed thinking about it and that it might be best to watch it without her. He tucked that thought away and picked the book back up and finished reading Aradia's Words on the Astral Plane.

"On the Astral Plane, thoughts are things. As you believe so shall it be."
He grinned and said, “As I learned from Star Trek and you when you were remembering your other Taurus friend.”
And she grinned right back at him.
"Ok Chief, what's next?"
"Aradia's Words on the Law of Return. You should probably read them straight through and then we'll take then pieces apart and put them back together."

So he found those in the book and started reading:
"Every act which you perform will draw to itself three times the nature of the act. Such is the Law.

This affects not only the acts of each day, but reaches into the future as well. Here the Law establishes those debts which must be paid.

Therefore consider well your actions. Nothing escapes the Law, nor is anything hidden from it. The Law does not punish nor reward. It only returns the intent of each action to its origin.

If you step off from a high place you will fall, and this is consistent. There is no intent, there is nothing good or evil. It may be good to leap upon your enemy from a high place and surprise him, or it may be bad to fall and be injured. But the nature of the descent is only a law. So too is the nature of the Law of Return."

And Owen said, "Three times."
And Nola smiled because this too was a common sticking point. "Yes. I was taught that ‘3 times the nature of the act’ doesn't mean 3 times as powerful, good or bad. It means the act returns to us 3 ways: in the physical, mentally, and spiritually. This return will be on the physical plane, you do something with good intent and effect and this act returns to you some way, some how on the physical plane. It also returns to you and affects how you think, what you have the capacity to create on the Astral in the future. It can impact your world view. It also returns to you on the spiritual plane. It can reach into your future lives and establish debts that can only be repaid in the next cycle. This is one of the reasons why the saying, 'Be careful what you ask for.' is so very, very appropriate when we talk about Magic."

And she paused and took a sip of wine, "Do you remember Disney's Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer's Apprentice?" And Owen looked like he thought he did but wasn't sure. So Nola described it. "Mickey is the apprentice and the Sorcerer has finished with a ritual and spell. Mickey is responsible for filling the basin with fresh water but is still thinking about the Sorcerer's magic and puts on the Sorcerer's hat and uses magic to get the broom to do his work. Then he falls asleep. Think about the fact that Aradia's words on Magic indicate that it is through the dream world that we can connect to the Moon Worlds or the Astral. Anyway, Mickey knows what he wants to accomplish: fill the basin. He gets the broom doing his work for him, falls asleep and wakes up to an overwhelming and out of control flood."
"Oh yeah I remember now, and he chases the broom around with an ax and ends up with hundreds of out of control brooms. Then he gets caught by the Sorcerer who gets the magic and the brooms under control and Mickey wanders off a little sheepish and chagrined."
Nola was nodding at him, "Excellent illustration of 'Be careful what you wish for'. I remember telling my daughter when she we 4, 5, 6 or whenever we watch Fantasia that part of doing magic is knowing when to tell it enough, stop."
"I bet your daughter has had a very interesting upbringing."
"I hope these little lessons are so woven into the rest of her life that they are boring enough to hide in plain sight until she needs them."
Owen smiled at her and then looked back at the manual and said, "There is that bit in here similar to what you said earlier, how did you put it? 'Energy is energy." There is no good or bad.
And Nola said, "Yes, the Law is part of the same laws of nature if you will. The Law of Return just is. When something happens as a result of the Law of Return it isn't to punish or reward. The Law is just responding to the laws of nature, to the web of life and the cycles of rebirth."

Owen sat thoughtfully and finally said, "Well that's sure a different more sophisticated and comprehensive view of Magic than I am used to."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh you know, the fluffy bunny stuff of most Wiccans was never explained to me or practiced that way. It just seemed superficial and silly.”
"Oh, well when you talk about doing something that can affect you on 3 different levels and potentially impact a lifetime to come, I'm not thinking it's silly. Magic is a part of how we practice and worship. Oh I don't think that you need to be twitching your nose like some sort of physical exercise routine. But I do think, as your teacher, that you should practice in order to understand it and in order to be able to use it when it is necessary or useful.

He took another sip of wine and looked at her skeptically as he saw his glass was almost empty and poured some more in to both of their glasses.
Nola saw the face and said, "It's not that different from how you practiced to circle casting or the Rite of Union. Your ritual skills are better than I ever was at this point in my training. I resisted the smells and bells. I was all in my head about the philosophy and theory. I’m sure some of that was because I was learning online and didn’t have someone to show me how it was done or to practice with me, except on rare and special occasions which we had to work to make happen. So it kind of had to be all in my head." And she smiled at him and said, “It is so much nicer to have someone to actually practice with, rather than having to do it all by myself alone.”

And he smiled back at that and teased said, “So I'm tempting again, even though I take up significant quantities of your time."
And she smiled a little sheepishly about how blunt she could be sometimes, while he said, "I can’t imagine doing this without having someone to talk to in person and to show me how it works. I’d have probably ended up throwing the book away in frustration without you to talk me through the Lare Shrine problem.” And he heard Papa Eric say loud and clear, “Then why aren’t you listening to her now, son?”

And Nola said, "Then why the resistance?” Then her intuition tingled, “Or dare I say disdain? Is the thought of doing magic too fluffy bunny for you?”

And Owen thought and said out loud, “Well, maybe. In reading other books about how magic is done there is all this talk about anointing candles, choosing the right oil, picking the color for the candle or the flowers or the right kinds of herb or…”
and she interrupted him with a giggle and said, “then don’t use those tools.”
And he looked at her confused. “Owen those are only the trappings. And she repeated what she had said earlier, "Magic is more subtle than that. Those things are only there to help focus your energy, focus your thoughts. It’s the thoughts that are things. It’s you mind that makes that magic."

Owen wasn't convinced. "Well I don't know. I don't see myself as being very good at this."
"Everyone has the capacity to do magic. When you turn the force of your personality on someone it’s pretty impressive. You can visualize. It is part of what you do for a living. You see potential and possibilities in the houses you renovate and repair. You are just using your earth sign tendencies to make them real in an earthy, practical fashion. You have the potential. I trust that the Grigori won’t let you get yourself in too much trouble."
And she saw him seriously consider that.
"I'm not asking you to whip up a spell this evening. I'm just trying to be thorough in how I teach you The Ways. All I want you to do at this point is think about it."
And he smiled at her and said, "I can do that, Chief." And he winked at her. "I can do that."
And she smiled back.

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