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!

My Journey to Aphrodite – Part Three

This is Part Three in a series of posts about how I came to Aphrodite. Read Part One and Part Two here.

The anniversary (or year and a day, if you like) of my dedication to Aphrodite in January was fast approaching. It was November of 2018 when I finally got the Divine Shove to make a formal commitment to Aphrodite and to undergo an initiation. After that, things happened kind of quickly.

Part of the reason I had not pursued formal initiation earlier was that there wasn’t a set path for what I was doing. No one I knew in my local community worked closely with Aphrodite. My non-denominational pagan group was not taking on any new clergy at that time. While I’m sure there are groups dedicated specifically to Aphrodite, I’m not a Hellenic Reconstructionist, and what I felt called to do didn’t line up with that template. There wasn’t an established way to do what I wanted to do, where I wanted to do it. So I created one (with a lot of help).

After getting the push to do a formal initiation, I had to think (and ask!) what that would mean for me. I understood from Aphrodite that it needed to be an ordeal of some kind, not just a formal oath. I needed to be tested – to show I had the courage and ability to take this path. And someone else needed to initiate me. I couldn’t do it on my own. Becoming a priestess involves a community and serving others, so it was only fitting that I needed someone else to accompany me on this journey.

I invited one of my closest friends over to talk about it, and asked her if she would lead the rite. This particular friend is absolutely amazing at leading majestic and meaningful ceremonies, and I knew she had to be the one to lead my initiation. Through some conversation (simultaneously both mundane with my friend and spiritual with Aphrodite, which was a bit of a trip), another one of my friends was “voluntold” that she needed to be a part of it as well. Two gatekeepers to lead me through my initiation. I spoke with them in the very early planning stages, and then the rest was out of my hands.

I knew that it had to be a secret, even from me.

I told my two friends and spiritual colleagues the vague instructions that Aphrodite had set out for me: 1) An ordeal of some kind needed to be a part of the initiation. 2) I shouldn’t know what the plans are. 3) The ceremony needed to highlight the traits of ferocity and compassion, which I would need to faithfully serve Aphrodite.

My friends told me that we were going on a trip the first weekend in January. Only the three of us knew what was being planned. We told no one else what we were doing, which led to some curiosity from our other friends. I would, of course, fill them in afterward, but we needed to keep it a secret for now.

My friends were excellent at maintaining the mystery. Literally the only things I knew about the weekend were that we would be gone Friday evening through Sunday evening, so I needed to pack bags and arrange for some catsitting. That was it. I took Friday and Monday off of work to prepare and recover, respectively. It was really fun explaining to my supervisor that I was taking a trip, but my friends were surprising me and I had no idea where we were going.

I spent a lot of time in prayer and meditation leading up to that weekend, honoring Aphrodite in both spiritual and mundane ways. I sang songs, I danced, I studied Greek, I made offerings, I made love, I did rituals, I drank rose tea, I helped people, I ate Mediterranean food, I enjoyed beautiful things, and I tried to infuse every part of my life with Her. With the weekend quickly approaching, I restrung the pearl and shell necklace that I had been wearing for almost a year in an elaborate ritual that lasted six hours (in which I also had to take a dinner break). (I did not plan for the ritual to last that long, but it turns out stringing pearls is very difficult and I’m not particularly talented at it.)

Finally, time for my initiation had come. I managed to make it to Friday of the initiation weekend without getting too anxious. Everything just felt right. I knew what was going to happen would be tough, but it would also be wonderful.

I was nervous. I was excited. I was terrified. I was joyous.

It was a weekend I shall never forget. Every moment was meaningful, though not all were serious. I was tested in strength with having to tell my OCD to fuck off countless times. I was tested in humility by acknowledging my faults and my fears. I was tested in courage by being asked to speak my truth and tell my story. I was tested physically by an all-night vigil and fast. I was tested in focus with hours of meditation. I was tested spiritually with writing and proclaiming my oath. I was tested in dedication and commitment by plunging into the cold January ocean, being knocked off my feet by a huge wave, and emerging giggling and shivering as my sea-soaked white nightgown clung to my skin in the whipping winds right before dawn.

I laughed and cried tears of joy as I crossed the threshold into priestesshood – A flower crown on my head, salt water dripping down my face, as I faced the dawn and a new beginning.