- Category: Reviews
Four Steps to Bringing Artistic Imagination to Your Magic
We magical folks are artists. Our greatest work is our life experience, and we paint it by dipping the brush of our intentions into the pigments of the Universe: starlight, song, a fresh sprig of rosemary, a lock of a loved one’s hair, an ecstatic dance, or a gentle wafting of fragrant smoke.
My mother, a visual artist, taught me that in order to truly see a cloud, one must recognize that it contains all the colors of the rainbow, not simply white or grey. They may be mixed in so much that you can’t necessarily discern one from the other, but they’re all there. Though I never achieved any sort of expertise at painting or drawing, this revelation taught me so much. Not just about how to look at clouds, but about how to look at everything: deeply, and with an awareness that there are almost always veiled and intricate dimensions to any given facade.
The cloud lesson was just one of many artistic “laws” I learned from my mom, and, the older I get, the more wisdom I realize it contains. I’ve also learned that lessons that work for visual artists often work just as well for those of us on the magical path.
Bringing Your Artistic Self to Life
Working magic doesn’t just require us to look deeply, it requires us to sense deeply; to go beyond the fluffy whiteness and into the swirling mists. In other words, it requires our intuition, which we utilize when we awaken all five of our senses and combine them with our ability to imagine. When we do this regularly, our intuition gets stronger and our magic becomes more potent. Additionally, when we allow ourselves to perceive the deeper dimensions of any given thing or situation, our decisions and actions are characterized by true wisdom and foresight. Working magic doesn’t just require us to look deeply, it requires us to sense deeply.
1. Cloud Gazing to Activate Your Intuition
Sit or lie comfortably and gaze at a cloud. Begin by seeing its simple, easily noticeable qualities: its color and seemingly static shape. Then, go deeper. Notice the infinite gradations and colors it contains. Notice its swirling movements and the way it expands, contracts, or slides across the sky. Then go even deeper. If you were inside the cloud, what would it feel like on your skin, and in your lungs? What would it smell like? What would it taste like? What would it look like from the inside? If the cloud had a voice, what would it sound like? If the cloud had a personality, what would it be?
Now, consider that the cloud is connected to every single other thing. For example, the water droplets it contains used to be in the ocean, and later they will be in the soil, and later they will be hydrating plants. Take your time with
this process of sensing deeply. Then, when you feel ready, bring to mind an important issue or question. Do the same thing with this issue that you did with the cloud: once you’ve taken note of how it appears on the surface, go deeper. Take your time with it. Look at it from the inside, with every sense, and from every angle. If the issue or situation had something to teach you, what would it be? If there was something hidden just beneath the surface, what would that be? As you move through this process, relax, let go of the need to be “right,” and allow yourself to step into the part of you that knows all and is one with all.
Balancing Light and Shadow Visual artists know that shadow is what brings out the appearance of light, and very bright light naturally results in very dark shadows. Furthermore, something without noticeable contrast (or without conscious awareness of either extreme) runs the risk of ending up boring, one-dimensional, or wishywashy.
This principle is true in magic as well as in art. Some of us lean toward the dark: we favor wardrobes that are exclusively black and only come out at night. Others lean toward the light: we listen to angelic music all day and visualize white light at every opportunity.
Most of us, however, fall somewhere in the middle, or fluctuate between the two extremes. No matter where we find ourselves along this spectrum, it’s important to be in balance and in touch with all parts of ourselves. The exercise below is intended to help the “white light” side come into connection with its shadow counterpart.
2. Bring Out Your Shadows Ritual
In the words of the poet William Blake, “Man was made for joy and woe / And when this we rightly know / Through the world we safely go.” Thinking positive is great, but sometimes we may use it as an excuse to pretend that our more “woeful” feelings — such as fear, sadness, and anger — aren’t there. Denial shuts us off from our depth and makes it impossible to process and release these feelings. That’s why balancing our brightness is an important key to living authentically.
Before you begin the shadow ritual, assemble an hour’s worth of dark and/or haunting music. This can be anything that brings out your brooding side, whether it’s Beethoven, Loreena McKinnit, or Marilyn Manson (or a mixn-match playlist), at least four candles, dragon’s blood or copal incense, a bundle of dried white sage, a journal or notebook, and a pen:
During the Dark Moon, after sunset, prepare your ritual space: play the music, light the candles and incense, cast a circle, call on a deity or deities of your choice (Kali, Persephone, Demeter, or Hecate are natural choices or connect with your matrons/patrons if you haven’t worked with a “Dark” deity before), and sit inside your circle with your journal and pen.
Take some deep breaths and relax your body. When you feel ready, ask yourself, out loud, the question, “Why am I sad?” Then write down at least ten things that make you sad. For each one, write, “I’m sad because ______.” Be completely honest with yourself and don’t censor things because you think they’re too sad or not sad enough. For example, you might write:
- I’m sad because I was abused.
- I’m sad because my cat died.
- I’m sad because I don’t like my new haircut.
- I’m sad because I don’t think my partner loves me as much as I love him/her.
- I’m sad because of the state of the environment.
- I’m sad because cages exist.
- I’m sad because my favorite restaurant closed.
- I’m sad because I lost my green jacket.
- I’m sad because I’m not a little girl/boy any more.
- I’m sad because I don’t have as much free time as I wish I did.
Now, look at what you’ve written and bring up your sadness.
If you can, cry; let your feelings out as much as you can. As you do this, stand up and begin to dance your sadness. Let your sadness merge with the music and your movement. As you do this, know that you are transmuting stagnant energy into magical power.
Repeat this process with the questions, “Why am I angry?” and, “Why am I afraid?” Make sure to write ten reasons for each, and to bring up your feelings once you’ve written them and feel them to the best of your ability as you dance them out within the circle.
When this process feels complete, sit within the circle and relax once more. Mentally congratulate yourself for opening yourself to listening to your shadows; ask the deity or deities you have invoked to help you to continue to process and deal with your feelings in a healthy way. When you feel ready, open the circle. Then light the sage and smudge yourself and the room to heal and purify the energy you have released.
3. Ritual Bath to Lighten Your Mood
If all we ever did was watch the news, we’d quickly come to believe that there’s little in this world to feel hopeful or cheery about. In addition, many in our socially-networked culture seem to believe that constantly complaining about minor annoyances is chic.
From a magical perspective, this is not ideal. In the words of Willy Wonka, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams.” In other words, we are constantly shaping reality with the power of our thoughts and feelings. While it’s important (as in the previous exercise) to admit and welcome even our negative/challenging feelings, it’s equally vital to interrupt any tendency towards gratuitous negativity so that we don’t unwittingly channel our magic towards creating more of what we don’t want.
This ritual can help you halt the habit of excessive negativity and create more positive momentum.
Do this ritual on a Sunday during daylight hours when the moon is between New and 2nd Quarter. Light a yellow, white, or ivory-colored candle and draw a warm bath. Add one cup of sea salt, one-half cup of baking soda, one sliced orange, eight drops of white chestnut flower essence, and eight drops of gorse flower essence, to the bath, and light a stick of cinnamon or frankincense incense. Place a bottle of drinking water near the bathtub into which you have added two drops of white chestnut flower essence, two drops of gorse flower essence, and a thin slice of orange. Stand next to the bath and place your hands over the water. Call on the deity or deities of your choice (Lugh, Amaterasu, or Archangel Michael are good) to bless the water. Visualize the bath water and the drinking water filled with very bright, sunshine-colored light. Now get into the bath, relax, and drink the water as you soak for at least forty minutes; as you let the water out of the tub, imagine that your worries and troubles are being washed down the drain with the water.
Every evening and morning until the next New Moon, place two drops of each flower essence under your tongue; as you do so reaffirm your commitment to speak kindly and gently to yourself as you lovingly shift any negative mental patterns into more positive ones. The longer you stick with this practice, the easier it will get.
It’s vital to interrupt any tendency toward gratuitous negativity, so we don’t unwittingly channel our magic towards creating more of what we don’t want.
4. Express Yourself!
If artists simply copied current trends, what the experts taught or even the old masters they would be purely technicians and not artists at all. The artistic path — just like the magical one — demands that we forge our own way. Magic, like art, calls us to interpret and experience our spirituality in a way that is personally meaningful. Magic demands our active participation in co-creating our destinies as conduits and facets of all-inclusive, infinite, divine power.
As a magical practitioner, expressing your uniqueness is not simply a right: it is an obligation. You are a ray of divine light, and a sacred manifestation of the God/dess. Here are a few ways you can enrich your path and practice by intensifying your unique voice.
• Create art: paint, draw, act, write poetry, make music, or express through any medium that calls to you. When approached consciously, art is magic and magic is art.
• Record your dreams: document your nightly excursions into the ether and know thyself more deeply than ever before.
• Don’t study what you think you should study — study what you genuinely want to study. Don’t censor your desires and your sense of fun; they are manifestations of your intuition, helping you to spiral closer to the center of you. (This is not to dissuade you from being disciplined, but to suggest that you approach even discipline with a sense of adventure.)
• Seek out things that make you laugh: laughter opens you up, puts things in perspective, connects you to your heart, and helps you feel like you.
• Seize the day: be spontaneous, alive, and awake. Be unafraid to question everything, even the things that you think you know beyond all doubt. Dance with the joy of exploration and adventure. And, above all, magically weave the work of art that is your life.
TESS WHITEHURST is the author of Magical Housekeeping: Simple Charms and Practical Tips for Creating a Harmonious Home. To learn more about her work, check out her blog, and sign up for her free monthly newsletter, visit her site at www.tesswhitehurst.com