Are You Projective or Receptive?

(Spoiler: You’re both!)

When I first started to take part in discussions in Pagan communities, I was astonished at the number of stories about people “feeling” things outside of their being. Whether it was empathic abilities or sensing someone’s energy field, I didn’t have a personal point of reference. I didn’t feel other people or energies inside my body. I have pretty keen social skills, and I can read a room or someone’s body language and discern basic emotions, but the idea of just “knowing” it or viscerally feeling it was completely alien to me.

Throughout my life, I had never been a very “receptive” person. Sure, I was open to new ideas, and some other mundane-world definitions of receptive, but energetically, I was not. I was almost always doing something. I put more time and effort into the vast majority of my friendships than I ever got in return. I rarely relinquished control of a situation to just “go with the flow.” I had a horrible time trying to “clear my mind” for meditation. And I never, ever, surrendered to anything. Until very recently, I put out WAY more energy than I took in from the world.

Not all of this was necessarily “good” energy, either. I have really big, overwhelming emotions, and I’ve had them all my life. If I feel something, I feel ALL of it. If I’m happy, I am overjoyed. If I’m sad, I am devastated. If I’m angry, I am livid. I also wear my heart on my sleeve, so anyone around me can tell what I am feeling at any point it time. I have absolutely no poker face. According to my Pagan friends, this is true of me energetically as well. I broadcast my emotions in waves radiating off of my body. Sometimes I can feel it, but the majority of the time, I cannot.

All of my emotions are very visceral, too. When I am happy, I feel this lightness in my chest and it feels like bubbles are coursing through my veins. When I am angry, I feel the blazing inferno in my solar plexus. When I am sad, my heart literally aches. I think most people feel emotions somewhere in their body, even if it is only a little sensation. My sensations were so overwhelming that they completely hijacked my brain. This was a bit of a disaster with negative emotions, to the misfortune of whomever made me sad or angry. Many years of therapy later, I have a bit more control over my emotions, and I know how to consciously keep from broadcasting them to the world (at least most of the time).

Projection was my default state until I was about 25 years old. It wasn’t always about emotions, and there were many good aspects to it as well. My projection made me a captivating performer, an enthusiastic public speaker, an engaging educator, a skilled social butterfly, and pretty good at doing magick. However, always being projective meant that I had a lot of difficulty receiving messages from the Divine, which began to be a much more important part of my spiritual practice around that time.

I didn’t start to be able to receive communication from the Divine until I reigned in my emotions and energy projections. After that, things slowly started to open up. I was much more in touch with my intuition, I could hear Aphrodite more clearly, and I also began to pick up on external energies more easily.

One of the messages that Aphrodite had for me (and required for me) was to be able to surrender. My OCD and anxiety had turned me into quite the control freak, and I didn’t want to let go of anything. I could barely surrender my thoughts during meditation. Through a series of events, it became very clear that I had to surrender – to Her and to the flow of life. I had to surrender my fear of letting go (along with lots of other fears). I had to allow things to happen – not make them happen, which had been my default for so many years.

I did not like it one bit! It jettisoned me far from my comfort zone and into an alien land. The best I could do most of the time was to throw my hands in the air and say “Well, here goes nothing!” This surrender was also intimately tied to overcoming my OCD and anxiety, which added whole another layer of complexity to things. It was rough going for a while. I felt completely energetically spent at the end of each day for several months. It took much more effort for me to let go than it did for me to control. It was an exhausting lesson to learn, but it was important.

After a few months, it became easier. It no longer required as much effort to surrender. I trusted Aphrodite and the world a bit more. I could receive things a lot more easily – be that a Divine message or kindness from a friend. Meditation became almost effortless, and I even started unintentionally slipping into a meditative state sometimes. My sensations of outside energies got stronger. I was able to receive, both spiritually and in the mundane world.

I believe that everyone has projective and receptive abilities. For some, one will be much stronger than the other, and that’s okay. It just means you will have to work a little harder to develop the other skill. I also don’t believe that being projective and being receptive are mutually exclusive. While it’s true that for me to find my receptive self, I had to tone down my naturally projective state, I have since had moments of both big receptivity and projection. A good example of this would be receiving energy from Aphrodite, combining it with my own, and projecting that energy during a ritual or magickal working.

Everyone’s process for reception and projection is different. I can tell you what worked for me (therapy and Divine intervention, mostly, but also following a few tips from my empathic friends). Recognizing which category each of your actions falls into is a great place to start. This can give you some idea as to what your primary mode might be, or if you tend to be ambidextrous.

After you determine your “default state,” explore activities that encourage the opposite mode. Some receptive activities include meditation, deep listening, empathy, sensing energy, divination, and pretty much any activity involving surrender of some kind. Some projective activities are raising energy, dancing, public speaking, planning an activity, going completely into your emotions, and doing things for others.

As you do things outside of your comfort zone, you will discover new capacities for using and sensing energy. Try combining two different activities of the same type to see how they feel, and two activities of the opposite type. As you develop your personal and magickal capabilities, you will be able to simultaneously hold projective and receptive energies. This was revolutionary to my spiritual practice. I hope it is positively transformative for you, as well!

Flames of the Firebird

I love the story of the Phoenix. A being, when tired of its outmoded life, surrenders itself to flame to be utterly consumed, and later rises from the ashes to be born anew.

The winter that I started working with Cerridwyn, I also started to work with the energy of the Phoenix, the Firebird. I had some pretty extraordinary things happen once I started working with the Firebird, and they are some of the stories of how I know my Paganism is real.

The first strange occurrence was an accidental invocation. (Be careful what you dance and sing for, my friends!) It was December or January: I had found a song I really liked, and joyously sang and danced around my living room, feeling the resplendent glory of the Firebird well up inside of me and plume out – like wingbeats fanning a fire. I was hotter than usual when I finished dancing, and I ended up burning like a furnace inside for days. This was incredible! I am normally extremely cold-natured – I wear layers and layers in the winter and I’m still freezing and unhappy. I wore shorts outside when I went to meet my friends that night (instead of my usual four layers of jackets.) Everyone else noticed the odd spectacle, and I shared my story. It was so visceral and out of the ordinary that I knew it had to be real. There’s no way I could make up that experience, and even if I tried, I wouldn’t believe myself.

After that, I knew there had to be a more intentional way to channel that energy. It felt simultaneously like tapping into my own personal power as well as channeling energy from a source outside myself. I felt the flames whirling around me and consuming me from the inside out. It was unlike any other energy I had experienced. It was wild and untamed, while simultaneously purposeful. It didn’t speak in words or have the presence of a God or Goddess. Not quite. It felt Otherworldly, but also inside of me. It was like a dance between this world and another.

A few weeks later, when I was having an awful day at my old job, I sang and danced to the Firebird again, with the intention of burning up all the negative energy I had accumulated from the day. It did so in spades. I was so fed up with all of the bullshit from my job and my awful supervisor. The fury overtook me. I screamed and sang and went up in flames as I spun around my apartment. It was a raging wildfire through my body and my aura, clearing the path and burning away all the bullshit. Afterward, I was still smoldering, and I felt cleansed and empowered.

The Firebird became a regular fixture in my spiritual life. I’m still not entirely sure if it is another being, something inside of me, or a combination of both. Right now, I believe it is both. I will call on the Firebird as a Divine entity in ritual, and I will also call it as a part of myself. The Firebird symbolizes courage and power, and the strength to use both wisely.

I’ve seen the Firebird in visions – I’ve even become the Firebird in meditation/trance. I feel the Firebird when I call to the South and the element of Fire in ritual, but it is definitely not an elemental spirit. I feel its energy when I energetically shield. I’ll feel it when I create through art, song, or dance.

At a fire pit gathering last fall, a friend told me she could see the Firebird behind me as I danced. I feel the energy flowing through me as I move – the wings unfurling behind me with a flourish and flames following my footsteps. I love that other people can see it, too. It’s a part of the shared spiritual experience that helps me to know it’s not just all in my head.

It seems fitting that the Firebird first came into my life when I was in an intense period of change. I had recently left grad school. I was tackling my OCD directly, looking for a better job, and trying to repair my romantic relationship when it made its spectacular entrance into my life. My spirituality was also evolving into a much more experiential and deity-centered practice.

Pretty much everything in my life was uncertain at that time. I was constantly struggling to pay my bills. I didn’t know if my romantic relationship would survive. My brain was being restructured through therapy and psychiatric medication. I was dealing with the grief of losing what I thought was my life’s dream in academia, and discovering that the dream that had replaced it might not be sustainable, either. I was facing so many of my fears head-on, trying not to completely break down in the process.

The Firebird reminded me that even when life feels like it’s going up in flames, beautiful things can be born from the ashes. Even though it completely sucked, I’m so glad I went through that transformative experience. In a sense, I was reborn. My closely-held dreams and fears had to die so that I could continue on – so that I could grow. My life is so different now than it was before the Firebird. Though I endured a few burns in the process, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Trials by Fire

I’ve found that spiritual growth is rarely a linear progression. There are times when it is slow and steady, and times of plateau where not much happens at all. Then, there are times when it’s a trial by fire.

Right now is one of those times for me.

I’ve had various other times of what I would consider exponential growth in my spiritual life. My first was the discovery of Paganism. I read all I could about Paganism and Wicca until my parents pulled the plug on it. It was a huge revelatory process, and it resonated so much that I stuck with it. You can read about my first foray into Paganism here.

Unfortunately, after that initial exploratory period, I hit a plateau for about ten years. I knew the core of what I believed (Namely that nature is sacred and that the Divine is feminine as well as masculine), but I just stopped there. At that time, it was enough for me. I wasn’t living in an environment conducive to spiritual growth, and what I had more or less suited my needs. So I plateaued.

My next big phase of growth was when I joined my Pagan group. It was so wonderful to be surrounded by other Pagans, to hear their different thoughts and viewpoints, to see rituals performed in a variety of ways, and to get their recommendations for books and ways to deepen my practice. I also had a greater need for my spirituality to evolve at this particular time. I had just started graduate school, and it was already shaping up to be a shitshow. I needed something bigger to connect with and rely on. I found that in my community and through exploring my faith.

I learned the ins and outs of belonging to a spiritual group over the next several months, taking on a leadership role within the first year, and becoming a member of our governing council within two. I learned all the calls and responses in Pagan ritual – what you say when calling the quarters and during cakes and ale. I learned how to lead a public ritual (even though the first ritual I was slated to co-lead got snowed out (twice) and rained out (once) and still hasn’t happened!) I led Sunday Circles, Full Moons, and Sabbats. It was a time of joyous growth.

My first hint at a trial by fire happened a little over a year and a half ago. I started directly experiencing deity in an entirely new way. It was much louder and persistent than ever before. I got closer to Aphrodite, leading up to my dedication to her in January of 2018. I also gathered up the courage to work with my first “dark” goddess, who happened to be a goddess of transformation and change. I had to gaze bravely into the darkness, and confront what I saw there. I was lucky that Cerridwyn was very gentle with me, but it was far from easy.

It turns out, when you tug on one of the Jenga blocks, they all come crashing down.

All of my insecurities bubbled up to the surface. I had to learn how to communicate with a new goddess in a completely novel way. I was lucky that I had a group of spiritual friends with which to share my experiences, but that also meant that I had to get comfortable talking about my spiritual journey with others. I had to be radically honest, in service to myself and to my friends. I discovered that what I thought was my career path and spiritual calling (to teach people how to be close to nature) was not a financially sustainable pursuit. I started feeling tugged in a completely different direction by my spiritual path, one that involved a lot more talking about sex and relationships and a lot less talking to trees. My grad student insurance expired, and I began seeing a new therapist in my new network (which is a whole process in and of itself). I finally started to get a handle on this whole “emotion regulation” thing, but there were still days I would end up in her office crying. It was a lot of change, but it was good change.

I also experienced a much quieter trial leading up to my initiation. I reached out to my friends and community members to talk with them about what they expected from the office of priestesshood. There wasn’t a lot of change in my spiritual practice, but more of a going deeper into my current practices, and forging a stronger connection with Aphrodite. Reflecting a few days before my initiation, I laughed to myself a bit, and told myself if that I didn’t know any better, I would describe myself as pious! It was a time of transition – from dedicant to priestess – and I was prepared and ready for it.

I was less prepared for what followed my initiation. As I wrote in Adventures of a Struggling New Empath, I acquired some new empathic abilities after my initiation that were difficult to cope with at times. There were also some surprising “priestess projects” that I was assigned that tested my comfort zone. But none of it compared to my current state of affairs.

I’ve been preparing to step more fully into my priestess role by doing something kind of serious and big for one of my friends. And pretty much ever since I committed to doing it, my life has been a raging Trial By Fire. It’s almost as if it’s a challenge from the universe – “Are you sure you’re ready for this role?” – while also showing me how much I have (and haven’t) grown in the past few years.

It has been very similar to a second ordeal (after the ordeal of my initiation), but over a longer period of time, and touching the more mundane aspects of my life as opposed to the spiritual. (I don’t believe the spiritual and the mundane are truly separate, but this trial did have a different quality to it). A good number of things happened over the past couple of months that were unexpected and hit on my various triggers and sore spots.

I found out that one of the casual members of my Pagan community was actually good friends with my ex in college (the ex that cheated on me and lied to me about being transgender). She told me about this right before Circle one Sunday morning, which was terrible timing for going into sacred space. My ex and I hadn’t spoken in years, and I was not at all expecting that old wound to rear its ugly head, much less in a place that I consider safe and sacred. I learned that I’m not quite as healed as I thought I was around that whole situation, and it’s impacting how I interact with this person. (We got along fine beforehand, and I considered us friendly acquaintances).

I know that my ex’s actions shouldn’t affect how I treat this person, and I’m trying really hard to not let it influence my behavior, but honestly I don’t want to talk her. I’m walking the line between wanting to completely ignore her and knowing that I can’t because I am a leader in this group (and, you know, I’m a mature and rational person and all of that). My current plan of action is to just be honest with her – Let her know that I still have a lot of pain from that past relationship, and that it is influencing my interactions with her. It’s nothing she has done – It’s more personal work that I have to do to heal. It’s been eight years since everything happened with my ex, and I thought I would be over it by now, but I guess not.

I also received the news that I wasn’t going to be able to take the next steps in my career that I was planning on (see my Lessons in Faith post for more details). Everyone around me was absolutely shocked at the news, which made me feel a little better, but didn’t actually do anything to change the course of events. I’m still regrouping from that and figuring out my next steps.

Work has been rougher than usual. One of my coworkers doesn’t like me very much, and that has created some tension at work. I confronted her about not pulling her weight sometime back in February (we work on a team, so I or my other team member have to pick up the slack if she doesn’t), and she did not take it well. I ended up talking to our supervisor about it, and thankfully he is understanding and more or less knew what was going on.

Unfortunately, the work situation still isn’t much better, and there were three consecutive weeks where my coworker barely spoke to me, which is difficult to deal with when you work four feet away from each other all day. Confound that with the fact that I’m a struggling new empath who is starting to pick up on others’ feelings, and it is not a fun place to be. I had to shield just about every hour on the hour and it was so mentally, physically, emotionally, and psychically draining.

The past couple of weeks at work have also been difficult because my office could currently be the site of an epidemiological study. My supervisor came in with a cold for a few days, and then the rest of us started dropping like flies, so we’ve also been perpetually short-staffed. AND we had a big health scare from a potentially infected client (not a cold, but something more serious) and they had to bleach everything she had touched while she was at our facility.

It all turned out okay, but it has NOT been a great time for my OCD and germaphobia. I absolutely HATE being sick, so having to take two days off of work to suffer and sniffle was awful. On the plus side, when I’m already sick, my OCD usually goes down because I’m like “Fuck it, I’m already sick, do your worst doorknob.”

Lots of other little things happened, too. My selenite palmstone broke, somehow jumping out of my purse (which has never happened) and cracking in two on the tile floor. I also had some interpersonal drama, both with a friend and with my boyfriend. I was perpetually not getting enough sleep, no matter what I tried. I had to get some maintenance done on my apartment on two different days, and my OCD is very much NOT OKAY with strangers being in my home.

Yet, despite all of these things, there was never anything I couldn’t handle. Nothing that completely overwhelmed me (though there were certainly times I felt overwhelmed). I could deal with all of it, more or less successfully. While it was not fun to experience, at the end, it is nice to reflect back and know that I can handle pretty much any shit that comes my way. And that is a very empowering thing.

I made it through this trial by fire, with only a few minor burns, and those will heal with time. It did highlight some areas in which I still have personal work to do, and I am grateful for that. It also encouraged me, that despite my personal insecurities, I really am cut out for this whole priestess thing. I can dealt with all of that personal stuff (because our own personal growth is never done), and still help other people in a meaningful way.

So, while I did not enjoy it, I am thankful for my most recent trial by fire.

Chakra Clearing Meditation

I shared this particular meditation with a friend the other day, and I thought it might be nice to post it here as well! This is the visualization that I typically use for clearing my chakras. It can be great if you’re feeling off-balance, or if you just want to recenter and recharge. It is also helpful before doing any spellwork to open up the channel of energy flow, and can add another layer of energetic depth if done before sex.

I often do this meditation lying down, as I frequently practice it before going to sleep and when I wake up in the morning. I’ve read several reasons not to do this, from the energy alignment not being proper unless you are sitting or standing, to “you’ll just fall asleep.” Lying down works for me, but you do what works best for you! If that’s sitting on the floor or in a chair, great! If that’s standing, also great! Do what feels best and what will also allow you to make it a more regular practice.

Some notes before you get started: I view the chakras as spinning wheels of light. The first (root) and the seventh (crown) are parallel to the ground if you are sitting or standing, kind of like two endcaps on your energy channel. I see all the chakras as spinning clockwise, as viewed from behind and above. I know other energy methodologies have differences in these details. Explore a few, and do what works best for you. I also generally view the crown chakra as white instead of violet. Again, choose what feels powerful for you!

I also have a specific breathing pattern that I use when I do this meditation, borrowed from some tantric breathing I’ve learned. I breathe in from the earth through my root chakra and up my spine (or into the particular chakra I am working on), and then breathe out starting from the crown of my head, going down the front of my body and into the earth, in a circular breathing pattern. I envision releasing anything that was blocking my chakra to the earth on that out breath.

Once I reach the crown chakra and have cleared it using the method above, I will breathe in from the Divine to the crown chakra, down the front of my body, and exhale up my spine back to the crown. This is more of an infusion process, bringing the Divine in, as opposed to the releasing to the earth from before.

Draw your awareness into your body. Feel the ground beneath your feet/seat/back. Become aware of your consciousness’ connection to your body and the earth. Begin to reach downward into the earth, as if you were a tree extending its roots to grow. Feel your roots go down, down, down, until you reach a brilliant white source of energy at the earth’s center. This is the energy you will use – the radiant, pure energy of the earth – to cleanse your chakras.

Bring the energy of the earth up through your roots, into your body, starting with your feet, then your ankles, your legs, and finally into your root chakra. Your root chakra is a horizontal (parallel to the floor if sitting or standing) spinning wheel of ruby red light. See it spinning clockwise (as viewed from above). As the white light of the earth enters your root chakra, it begins to spin faster, throwing off any blockages, any fears or insecurities, and any harmful energy that has taken up residence there. See your root chakra begin to glow brighter, radiating this brilliant ruby light, nourished from the energy of the earth. Do this for several breaths. Once you feel you have cleared all that needs clearing from your root chakra, do one final exhale down the front of your body into the earth, grounding all that you have released.

On your next inhale, breathe the white light of the earth up through your brilliant red root chakra and into your sacral chakra. The second, sacral chakra is a vertical spinning wheel of tangerine orange light in the center of your pelvic bowl. See it spinning clockwise (as viewed from behind). As the white light of the earth enters your sacral chakra, it begins to spin faster, throwing off any blockages, any fears or insecurities, and any harmful energy that has taken up residence there. See your sacral chakra begin to glow brighter, radiating this brilliant tangerine light, nourished from the energy of the earth. Once you feel you have cleared all that needs clearing from your sacral chakra, do one final exhale down the front of your body into the earth, grounding all that you have released.

Inhale again, and breathe the white light of the earth up your spine, through your first, second, and now into your third chakra. The third, solar plexus chakra is a vertical spinning wheel of golden yellow light right beneath your sternum. See it spinning clockwise (as viewed from behind). As the white light of the earth enters your solar plexus chakra, it begins to spin faster, throwing off any blockages, any fears or insecurities, and any harmful energy that has taken up residence there. See your third chakra begin to glow brighter, radiating this brilliant golden yellow light, nourished from the energy of the earth. Once you feel you have cleared all that needs clearing from your solar plexus chakra, do one final exhale down the front of your body into the earth, grounding all that you have released.

On your next inhale, breathe the white light of the earth up your spine, through your first, second, third, and now into your fourth chakra, visualizing the rainbow of colors as you breathe up the spine. The fourth, heart chakra is a vertical spinning wheel of radiant emerald green light in the center of your chest. See it spinning clockwise (as viewed from behind). As the white light of the earth enters your heart chakra, it begins to spin faster, throwing off any blockages, any fears or insecurities, and any harmful energy that has taken up residence there. See your fourth chakra begin to glow brighter, radiating this brilliant emerald light, nourished from the energy of the earth. Once you feel you have cleared all that needs clearing from your heart chakra, do one final exhale down the front of your body into the earth, grounding all that you have released.

Inhale again, and breathe the white light of the earth up your spine, through your first, second, third, fourth, and now into your fifth chakra. The fifth, throat chakra is a vertical spinning wheel of sky blue light in the center of your throat. See it spinning clockwise (as viewed from behind). As the white light of the earth enters your throat chakra, it begins to spin faster, throwing off any blockages, any fears or insecurities, and any harmful energy that has taken up residence there. See your fifth chakra begin to glow brighter, radiating this brilliant sky blue light, nourished from the energy of the earth. Once you feel you have cleared all that needs clearing from your throat chakra, do one final exhale down the front of your body into the earth, grounding all that you have released.

On your next inhale, breathe the white light of the earth up your spine, through your first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and now into your sixth chakra. The sixth, third eye chakra is a vertical spinning wheel of indigo light slightly above the midpoint between your two eyes. See it spinning clockwise (as viewed from behind). As the white light of the earth enters your third eye chakra, it begins to spin faster, throwing off any blockages, any fears or insecurities, and any harmful energy that has taken up residence there. See your sixth chakra begin to glow brighter, radiating this brilliant indigo light, nourished from the energy of the earth. Once you feel you have cleared all that needs clearing from your third eye chakra, do one final exhale down the front of your body into the earth, grounding all that you have released.

Inhale again, and breathe the white light of the earth up your spine, through your first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and now into your seventh chakra, seeing and feeling the rainbow of colors radiate up your body. The seventh, crown chakra is a horizontal spinning wheel of violet or white light at the top of your head. See it spinning clockwise (as viewed from above). As the white light of the earth enters your crown chakra, it begins to spin faster, throwing off any blockages, any fears or insecurities, and any harmful energy that has taken up residence there. See your seventh chakra begin to glow brighter, radiating this brilliant violet or white light, nourished from the energy of the earth. Once you feel you have cleared all that needs clearing from your crown chakra, do one final exhale down the front of your body into the earth, grounding all that you have released.

Breathe up your spine, sensing each of the glowing rainbow of chakras as your breath passes through them, culminating at your crown chakra. Breathe out, and send your energy up into the cosmos, spreading like branches in the etheric pool of Divine Energy. Inhale this Divine energy down the front of your body, allowing it to nourish every cell. Breathe out, moving the energy in a circular pattern back up your spine, and breathe down the Divine energy once more. Do this for several breaths. Once you feel completely nourished and at peace with this Divine energy, slowly bring your branches back into your body. Ground any unneeded energy back into the earth, and bring your roots back into your body. Take a few more deep breaths, feeling empowered and rejuvenated, cleansed and cleared.

Heart Healing Meditation Stones

A lot of the New-Age world is abuzz with talk of the power of crystals and their vibrations. Until a few years ago, I was extremely skeptical. My formal science training screamed “There aren’t any research studies!” but somewhere, deep down, it made sense that rocks, crystals, or anything made of the Earth could have its own energies. I’ve never doubted the sacredness or spiritual energy of trees. Why would stones be any different? But they weren’t alive like trees were, and I’d read so many uses for some types of stones that it all started to sound like hippie nonsense. That was, until I found a stone that worked.

I had accumulated a few stones over the years (I am a Pagan, how could I not?), but none of them really “spoke” to me. I was convinced I needed to expand my repertoire, so I attended a crystal workshop at my local Pagan Pride Day Festival a couple of years ago. Again, I didn’t really connect with any of the stones, but I was inspired by the workshop to pick up a selenite wand to use to cleanse my altar items. I sort of felt something from it, but the effect was not big enough to make me into a crystal convert. I was still skeptical.

One of my favorite Pagan bloggers, Tess Whitehurst, mentioned something in one of her articles about holding a black tourmaline in one hand to help get rid of anxiety for better sleep. At the time of reading the article, I was in the throes of full-on dealing with my obsessive compulsive disorder and general anxiety, and at that point, I was open to anything that could help. So, dubious though I was, I went and bought a black tourmaline from my local New Age shop. I properly cleansed it (which meant the OCD “actually wash it with dish soap” as well as energetically cleansing it), and that night, I tried it. I held it in my right hand, fully expecting nothing to happen and for me to now be the owner of a just another shiny black rock. While I was in the middle of thinking these doubting thoughts, the ever-present knot in my chest loosened. I felt my anxiety drain away. I shook my head, incredulous, but I felt much better. My worries were quieter (and when you have OCD, you have a lot of worries) and physically, I felt renewed. I was in awe.

I tried it again the next night, and the same thing happened, and it’s happened every time since then. My journey with Aphrodite started soon after, so rose quartz was a natural second stone to add. I could feel the energy of these, especially from the bigger stones. I added rose quartz with the black tourmaline to my meditation stone collection. But I needed something else.

I have experienced a lot of pain, betrayal, and heartbreak over the years (not just with my boyfriend moving out, but in relationships before that as well), and my heart chakra felt very closed off and sluggish. I did some research and decided to acquire some malachite, a bright green stone associated with healing and the heart chakra. With that, I discovered my perfect trio.

I use all three of these stones to meditate. I typically meditate lying down (I know some people don’t consider it a best practice, but it works for me better than sitting, so I go for it). I will place the black tourmaline in my right hand (my dominant, projecting hand), so that it can absorb all of the anxiety or negative energy that I may be generating. I place the malachite in my left (receptive) hand, so that I can take in all of its healing energies. Finally, I place a large rose quartz palmstone right on my sternum/heart chakra, so its gentle, soothing energies can radiate through my whole body. It feels wonderful for any meditation, as well as for trying to drift off to sleep.

Give it a try! I hope it works for you. If not, I’m sure there is an arrangement of crystals out there that will make you feel fantastic. Do a little research, and don’t give up if you don’t find it on your first try. It may also take a while for you to get used to the energies of the crystals. At first, selenite didn’t have a big effect on me, but now I consider it essential and carry one around with me everywhere. On my last Pagan Shopping Trip, I was drawn to a fluorite crystal. It’s got some great energy, and though I don’t know exactly what I’m going to use it for yet, I’m excited to find out.

Adventures of a Struggling New Empath

When I underwent my initiation for Aphrodite, I knew that some things in my life would change (perhaps quite drastically), while others would remain more-or-less the same. The first week after my initiation was fairly uneventful. There was the excitement (and nervousness) of sharing the story with my other pagan friends (and muggle friends, too), since I hadn’t told anyone about it beforehand. Aphrodite was still there, though she had been pretty constantly with me for a while. The silence space in my everyday life seemed fuller, which I know doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that’s the only way I can think of to describe it. The real weirdness started happening about two or three weeks after my initiation, and I was not anticipating it at all.

First, some background: When it comes to energy, I’ve always been more of a projector rather than a receiver. I’m pretty loud and expressive, and I feel emotions in a very big way. As I discovered when I started doing emotion journaling for DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), I either feel things as a 10 or not at all. If I’m happy, I’m elated. If I’m sad, I’m in anguish. If I’m angry, I am livid. Using some of the emotion regulation skills in DBT, I was able to modulate this to a certain extent, so that every time I felt sad I wasn’t immediately a crying puddle, and that if I was annoyed, I didn’t yell at my boyfriend. This proved very useful in the mundane world and made my life a whole lot easier. (Yay DBT!)

Even after DBT, as a general rule, I put out a lot more energy than I take in. If you spend any amount of time in the new age or Pagan blogosphere, you will probably come across articles about how to effectively cope with being an empath. Throughout my years of being Pagan, I could relate to these somewhat. I’ve always been very perceptive, and I’ve generally been able to read a room and know what my friends are feeling, though that has come more from body language and tone of voice than any feelings of energy. (Or at least that’s what I thought, anyway.) Once I found a Pagan community, and started hearing my friends’ stories about how they perceive energy, I concluded that I was perhaps more empathic than the average muggle, but not very empathic compared to a lot of the Pagans I knew. And I was okay with that, for the most part. I did miss being able to contribute to the conversation about what energies everyone was feeling, so about a year ago, I asked one of my super empathic friends for some pointers on sensing energy. She gave me some, and I tried them out, but nothing seemed quite right for me at the time.

I started being able to sense my own energy much more clearly after I started practicing Tantra (which was about a year and a half ago). I could identify in my own body some of what my friends were talking about and what I had read about, but I still couldn’t sense the same in other people. I had mostly given up on trying to feel those things from others about six months prior to my initiation. I knew had magickal strengths elsewhere, and that was fine by me.

Fast forward to the last couple weeks of January 2019: I was at work when the first instance of the weirdness happened. A client came up to talk to me and I immediately was inundated with an overwhelming feeling of “get him the fuck away from me as fast as possible,” accompanied by an energetic barrage of ick that can best be described as “getting slimed.” I couldn’t avoid talking to him, so I did everything I could to disengage him as quickly as possible and put some physical distance between us. I didn’t know what was happening, and in the moment, I forgot completely about grounding and shielding, Witchcraft 101 stuff. All I knew was that I needed him to be as far away as possible, and that I suddenly felt very, very psychically dirty. It felt like I had energetic slime dripping off of me – not of a particular emotion, but just a general horrible, awful feeling.

My coworkers and I dealt with the situation, and I finally had the wherewithal to remember that I’m a witch, and I keep selenite in my purse. I got it out and put it in my pocket, did some discreet deep breathing, and was able to ground and center mostly back to normal, though I really, really wanted to take a shower. (And I did, when I got home that day.)

The second instance of weirdness happened the following week, when a client came in visibly upset. I could feel the waves of sadness, anguish, and fear rolling off of her, even though I did not directly interact with her. The feelings immediately brought me back to some moments in my past where I felt the same. A little more experienced now, I got out the selenite immediately, held it in my hand for a few moments, and then stuck it in my pocket. I got back to equilibrium a bit faster this time, though the experience still rattled me.

I started keeping selenite in my pocket daily, and after a couple of weeks it was genuinely “used up.” I had charged crystals before with particular intentions, but had never felt from the crystal that it needed cleansing before. I usually cleanse my crystals as a matter of course, typically by running them under water, but selenite is a salt and will dissolve in contact with water. The next go-to for cleansing would be bright sunlight, but we had several weeks of overcast days back-to-back. I had to navigate without the selenite for about a week before the sun finally came back out, and I could definitely feel the difference.

After the second instance of weirdness, I consulted my empathic friends to get their tips and pointers. I asked “Do you guys deal with this all the time?” and they laughed at me (good-naturedly). I wondered if this would become my new normal, and honestly I wasn’t terribly excited about it. It was exhausting, and even though I knew the skills to cope, it wasn’t fun. I could see how empath skills could help me in my work with Aphrodite, so I was still accepting of it, and vowed to adapt as best I could.

Since then, I’ve gotten better at shielding. I used to just shield once a day, but now I need to multiple times a day. I also have to shield differently depending on the situation. My usual shield was a bubble of golden white light, and while that still works for a bedtime shield and around my friends, out in the rest of the world, I need something stronger. Fire works well, and I call upon Aphrodite for help with that. At first I tried a fire shield sourced from my own power, but that was too personally draining, and as a result, ineffective after just a few hours. A friend also gave me a Protection blend of essential oils that works quite well. I can surreptitiously anoint myself throughout the workday, though even just having the vial in my pocket is pretty effective.

For crystal help, I learned the importance of cleansing my selenite and keeping it close to my person, not just in my purse nearby. I discovered that black tourmaline, which I had been using to absorb negative feelings and anxiety, only works well for my feelings, not for those of others. I still love black tourmaline, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the right stone for this job. My friend suggested hematite, and I picked up a hematite ring to keep on my key fob for work and that has done wonders.

Other types of cleansing help, too, though they aren’t as immediately helpful for the work environment. Palo santo, sage, and other incense can purify anything left over in my energy field once I get home. Taking a shower also helps immensely, and I typically diffuse some essential oil to go with it (recently eucalyptus because my nose has been stuffed up, but lavender is also nice, as is cedar).

Whether my empath powers are toning down, or I am just dealing with it better, I haven’t had any more occasions of being “slimed” recently. I have been able to pick up on more subtle energies with my friends (whom I typically don’t strongly shield around), but so far not much else from other people, which has been a relief.

I know a lot of new empaths have a very hard time adjusting, and while my experience was difficult, there were a lot of things that made it easier for me. First and foremost, I knew what was happening. I had read countless articles and talked with friends about this subject, so I was aware of the nature of empaths and knew more or less how to respond, even if it wasn’t as reflexively as I would have liked. I also had friends I could talk to about my experiences and get their insight and help.

The other very helpful thing I’ve had on my empath journey is that I know very clearly what feelings are or are not mine. A boatload of therapy and personal introspection has helped with that, along with knowing exactly how my feelings feel to me. I can clearly separate my feelings from others’ feelings, which I know can be very confusing for many new empaths.

As for where my own empath journey is headed… We’ll see! Things seem to have toned down, so I don’t think it will be an intense “all the time” thing, but it will be something helpful to draw on in certain situations. It has certainly helped to hone my witch reflexes and recognize the importance of some magickal practices that I had done somewhat consistently, but now must do daily and with a purpose.

In the meantime, I am still learning, and I know I have a ways to go!

Going Deeper – Are You Ready to Dive In?

So you’ve decided that you want to begin a relationship with Aphrodite (or another Divinity that feels right to you). A deep, personal relationship. Maybe you want to become a devotee, dedicant, or priestess (or priest; we are open to all genders here). What do you do next? There are some important considerations to take into account, and then I’ll talk about first steps to connect with your deity in another post.

Important things to consider before embarking on a relationship with any Divinity:

1) Where are you on your spiritual path?

Are you relatively new to Paganism? How long have you been called to this path? “New” can be a relative term, and some people who are relatively “new” to Paganism or Witchcraft are able to hit the ground running with the basics and move on to deeper things more quickly than others. These people have usually had a “calling” for a long time, or finally realized that they were “a witch all along and didn’t know it,” but this isn’t always the case. If you are starting out, I would recommend a MINIMUM of six months of study in various Pagan traditions before moving on to deep personal relationships with deities. Most traditions recommend a year-and-a-day of study before moving on to the next level. Taking some time to study and reflect is essential because: A) You want to have a pretty good idea of what path feels right to you before you start diving deeper, and B) You want to know exactly what you are getting into if you pursue a relationship with a particular deity.

What books have you read? What methods or traditions have you studied? I’m not saying you need to study every single tradition out there before you start going deeper with one particular tradition or Divinity, but it’s a good idea to get a general overview of modern Paganism and see what resonates with you. Even if you end up deciding that your first tradition or deity was the One, at the very least you have a good background with which to participate in the larger conversation of Paganism. Check out the Resources section of my website for some of my recommended books for beginning study and exploration.

2) What is your spiritual skill set?

Do you have a daily meditation practice? Do you have any experience with going into and out of trance states safely? How much are you in touch with your intuition? Do you know basic energy anatomy and how to move and raise energy? Developing a deeper relationship with any deity is going to be difficult if you don’t have some basic spiritual tools.

Having a good meditation practice is essential for a deep spiritual life, as well as for magick and energy work. Now, meditation is different for everyone. I’m not talking about the complete “clear your mind and have no thoughts at all for 20 minutes” (but if you can do that, good for you!) Meditation is mostly about being able to hold an intention, whatever that intention may be.

Some of my favorite ways to mediate are:

  • Dance! (or other movement) – Put on some music you love and get lost in it. Don’t focus too much on your movements, just do what comes naturally.
  • Hiking/Walking Meditation – Focus on observing (without judgement!) everything around you: how the ground feels underneath your feet, what sounds you hear, the colors you see, et cetera. If you find yourself following a train of thought, bring it back to gentle observation.
  • Mantra or Affirmation Meditation – This involves repeating a specific phrase or mantra as the focal point of the meditation. I like using these when I’m feeling down or upset. “I am loved” or some variation of that is one of my favorites.
  • Breathing Meditation – Focus on your breath. You can either think “in… out” with your breaths or count your number of breaths or the duration of your breaths.
  • Focal Point – I don’t do these very often, but lots of people have success with image meditations or mandala meditations. This can involve a real image or one you hold in your mind (though the latter is more difficult). It can also involve any other visual focal point, like a candle flame or water flowing over rocks.

There are lots of other ways to meditate, but the important thing is to find a way that works for you. Meditation will allow you to develop focus for magickal and energy work, as well as be able to open up your mind to the Divine.

Trancing is a level up from meditation, and I don’t suggest trying it without a trained teacher or a good book. Trance-portation by Diana Paxson is a good place to start. I have had a number of wonderful and fantastical Divine encounters whilst in trance, but it is not something you want to jump into the deep end with.

Intuition is a very personal thing, so journeys to get in touch with your intuition are going to be as varied as each individual. Most good introductory magickal/spiritual skill set books will have suggestions for this.

Energy is so important! At the very least, you should know your own energy anatomy, and how to raise and control energy within your own body and within a circle. For years I focused on external energy raising, which was all well and good, but it was only when I started working within that I discovered the amazing possibilities of energy. Working with your own energy will also teach you when another (Divine) energy is present or channeling through you.

3) Do you have a pantheon?

If you do, great! Maybe you found a pantheon that resonated with you during your year-and-a-day of study. Awesome! I didn’t. And that’s okay. You don’t have to have a pantheon. (Though there are some Pagans who may tell you otherwise.)

I’m an eclectic witch. Even though I work with a Hellenic divinity, I don’t follow the Hellenic pantheon or Hellenic traditions. The only other Greek deities I work with on occasion (and I mean very occasionally) are Hestia, Hecate, Persephone, Demeter, and Dionysus. And that’s okay. No one has come to smite me yet.

Your path is just that – YOURS. No one else can tell you what is right or wrong for you. (I assume we all can agree with a general “Do no harm, but take no shit” policy at the very least.) When it comes to which deities you worship and how you worship them, your best authority is you.

4) Have you dealt with your personal shit?

Ah, perhaps the biggest question of all! Have you dealt with your personal shit? Have you been on the personal growth path long enough to at least know what your problems are, if you haven’t already dealt with them? This can run the whole gamut, including but not limited to: mental disorders, fears, insecurities, family issues, physical health, romantic relationship issues, energy blockages, resentments, self-esteem, prejudices, addictions, and healthy boundary setting. Do you know what your core values are? What drives you as a human being? You should know yourself, or at least be making an effort to do so, before you begin pursuing a deep relationship with a deity.

I highly recommend therapy. For everyone. It doesn’t matter how well-adjusted you think you might be – none of us escaped childhood or early adulthood without some battle scars (and possibly some festering wounds). It’s also just nice to have an impartial third party to talk about your life issues with who won’t pass judgement on you and is there to support you. You do need to find a good therapist, though, and that may take some time. You need to find someone whom you “click” with, who provides helpful advice, and who is hopefully pagan-friendly (if you want to talk about spiritual stuff with them).

All of this to say: You don’t actually need to wait to pursue a relationship with the Divine. You can start today (and should, if you want to!) These are just some guidelines for that next step, some recommendations that I either had, or wish I had had, when I began my journey to Aphrodite. That being said, The Divine is (for the most part) understanding. If you are just starting on your journey, or are in the beginning phases, don’t be afraid to reach out! Pray, make offerings, sing, dance, meditate! The Divine can, and will, help you in your preparations for deeper connection. Like I said in the beginning, these guidelines are for those wanting to pursue a dedicated, daily relationship with a deity – like that of a devotee or priestess (/priest). And if that deity likes you, they will most certainly give you some guidance along the way.

This is Part One in a series on Going Deeper with your Pagan Practice. Read Part Two here.