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Just before Yule, I was looking for a book to get more information on pendulum dowsing and the possibilities and avenues of enquiry open to dowsers (as opposed to a more introductory text). Confronted by dozens to books on the subject on Amazon (Cambridge is becoming increasingly bereft of bookshops in general, never mind Pagan bookshops), and with no way to decide which one would be best, based on my requirements, I opted to consult Quartz on the topic. She directed me straight to D. J. Conway’s Little Book of Pendulum Magic. I had Conway’s Celtic Shamanism book for a while and, although I liked it at first, it began to grate after a while and my opinion of Conway as an author decreased. I wouldn’t have purchased her pendulum book, but for Quartz’s insistence that this is the book I want over of all the others.

I reasoned that there’s no point asking for answers you’re not going to act on, hit ‘buy’ and waited. When the book turned up, it was exactly what I wanted. Score plus-one for dowsing!

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There are a number of considerations to be made when divining, the most important of which seems to be formulating the question.

I’ve amassed a number of guidelines to help formulate questions; most of them have been culled from Jessica Mac Beth’s book, which accompanies Brian Froud’s Faerie Oracle cards, but I’ve also been looking at a number of other online sources which corroborate MacBeth’s suggestions. I’ve reworded the guidelines to be applicable to pendulum dowsing, but they seem a fairly sensible ground to start from in any dowsing or divination practice (I’ll probably end up eating those words when I get around to Ogham or runic divination…).

Start with binary answers:

Bad: “Which job should I apply for?”

Good: “Should I apply for [job]?”

Unless used with a talking board or a chart, a pendulum can only really give two answers, so it can only answer questions with two possible outcomes. Anything else will give a confusing reading, if it gives one at all.

Don’t combine questions:

Bad: “Does [person] like me; and can I make him/her think better of me?”

Good: “Does [person] like me?” – “Can I make him/her think better of me?”

Any time a question has a conjunction in it (‘and’, ‘but’, ‘or’, ‘nor, ‘yet’ or ‘so’) in it, check it to see if you can refine it into to two or more separate questions.

Specific questions are specific:

Bad: “Is it going to rain?”

Good: “Is it going to rain in [place] today?”

Use places, times, dates and names to make the questions as focused as possible. Get specific – vague answers result in vague questions.

Assume responsibility:

Bad: “Will [issue] be resolved in my favour?”

Good: “Is there anything can I do to increase the chances of [issue] being resolved in my favour?”

Active questions allow room for change and assume responsibility for the outcome. Nothing is set in stone except the past.

Act with integrity:

Bad: “Is [personA] cheating on [personB]?”

Good: N/A

Asking questions about a third-party is gross breach of trust; if a question would be inappropriate to answer by non-mystical means, don’t ask it.

Manners never go amiss:

Bad: “Tell me: should I take the job and move to [country]; clockwise for yes, anti-clockwise for no.”

Good: “Please tell me: should I take the job and move to [county]?”

I don’t know what causes the pendulum to move, but I believe that minding your Ps and Qs are the best course of action, especially when dealing with the unknown. Even if it turns out I’m talking to my self and my subconscious, a little self-respect goes a long way ^_~

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Although a degree of fluidity is necessary during penduluming sessions, I think that a brief list of topics I intend to cover would be best , in the beginning at least. I can use that to get an idea of how many questions I can ask before I start getting nonsense answers, prevent myself from getting sidetracked and check my questions before I pose them. Creating a whole conversation tree seems like overkill but, if the list of question is fixed, it presupposes the answers – in which case there’s probably no point in asking the questions.

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Both my pendulums (pendula?) have been gifts; the first – a shaped clear quartz point – was  given to me by a family friend (a third grandfather, really), while on holiday in Wales in 1995 (some time around then, anyway). The second – an inverted pyramid made of serpentinite – was a a gift received at the Cambridge Pagans’ Yule moot back at the beginning of December; it was he (the serpentinite pendulum) who renewed my interest in pendulum divination. I did some divination work back in the 90s, when I started looking into Pagansism, but, although I stopped after a few months, I’ve been wearing the quartz pendulum as a necklace on a semi-regular basis since then.

Since it has been so long since I used the quartz pendulum, and the serpentinite one was new, I figured I should start from first principles.

I started by politely asking each pendulum to give me a ‘yes’ signal, a ‘no’ signal and a ‘maybe’ signal. Each pendulum has their own distinct signals and, I discovered, their own individual identities as spirits of the stones – the quartz identifies as female and the serpentinite as male, for example – and each has their own name and (presumably) personality.

I’m still getting to know the stones, exploring the differences in the answers they give to my enquiries and the areas they specialise in, but from here on in, I am at least aware that they are two different people. As such, I feel awkward thinking that I’m ‘using’ the stones to give me an answer; in the future, I’m going to refer to divination as ‘talking with’ the pendulum.

I have established that both crystals are rejuvenated in different ways: Quartz asked to be left in the window with my pot-plants for 24 hours, Serpentinite wanted to be soaked in a peppermint tea for three minutes (my book on crystals suggested running him through the flame of a brown candle, but he gave me an emphatic ‘no’ when I suggested it).

Each crystal prefers different offerings, too. Serpentinite wanted a glass of rum, Quartz wanted chocolate (she directed me to the hidden box of chocolate in my first attempt at location dowsing). When held over their requested offering, the pendula began making very energetic clockwise circles around the offering (Serpentinite doesn’t make circles as part of his standard response vocabulary, so that was a bit peculiar right off the bat). After about thirty seconds, they came to a full stop and didn’t make any further movement unless I asked another question.

I’ll be doing more research and practice in the near future, but – for now – I think I’m off to a good start.

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Samhain is a good time to journey; the barrier between this world and the Otherworld is thin and easily traversed.

It has been so long since I made a successful trip that I was worried I’d forgotten how, but as I sat at my altar at just past midnight, the single candle casting weird shadows across the room, and breathed the incense-laden air, I slipped down through the roots of the world-tree and into the Otherworld without any resistance at all.

I don’t know if it was the time of day, time of year, how tired I was, the new arrangements I tried or a combination of all or some, it worked and we had a wonderful reunion; I am very happy I was able to make the journey.

Post-mortem:

  • The candle and incense are an established constant. They will stay.
    • Is it worth using a particular scent for a particular type of journey? Is it practical?
  • The blanket across my shoulders served as both a ritual robe and a way to keep warm. This will be staying (although whether I use the same blanket is open to debate).
  • Vocalising my intention and speaking out loud helped, I think, even thought it was difficult both psychologically and physically. I can overcome the psychological element, but I’ll wait until I get my throat back before I try chanting again.
  • I’m not sure about marking out a ritual space with the incense. If I do it again, I’ll do it standing up.
  • I don’t think I took long enough to work myself into a trance state. I need to take longer to build an atmosphere (the blanket, lighting and incense help, but I can still do more). The length of the ritual should balance need and intention with tiredness (and what I’m doing the next day!) if I intend to continue doing this in the middle of the night.
    • Meditation, breathing and serpent swaying
    • Chanting, drumming, bells and music
    • Dancing, yoga or other physical exertion
    • Wine, entheogens and flying ointments?
    • Check deVries for alternative trancing methods
    • Trancing at PsiPog.net (print-friendly)
  • Offerings are only polite and are the bare minimum I can do. Next time, I should offer some sort of foodstuff as well as alcohol.
    • I’ve not yet worked out if the spirits prefer one thing over another for offerings. Vodka or whiskey? Bread and cheese or fruit? I should ask.
  • I’m still not sure how to close the ritual. Last night’s attempt was appalling and possibly insulting (I know I felt insulted by how bad it was).

In the end, the ritual achieved what I needed it to; a reunion with my friends on the other side after nearly a year-long absence and a chance to try some new techniques.

I have regained my shattered confidence and I can’t wait to go again.

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More on sigils

“Sigils are monograms of thought, for the government of energy”
~ A. O. Spare, The Book Of Pleasure

The principle of sigil magic is founded on the theory that the conscious mind inhibits the action of magic on the world, and so it must be sidestepped in order to work magic (parallels between this and shamanic trancework). The sigil does not have any inherent power; it is only the energy invested in them by their creator that imbues them with magical potential. This is dissimilar to the use of charms and talismans, in that the latter uses pre-existing symbols with pre-existing associations that are retained after use (Max suggests that the physical representation of the sigil be destroyed after use).

Sigil magic requires no spiritwork or deity requests, as it is entirely based on the theory of subconscious creation – the ability of the subconscious to rearrange reality.

The three main stages of sigil creation are:

  1. Setting intent
  2. Creating the graphical sigil
  3. Implanting the glyph into the subconscious

Setting intent

There are a number of rules to be followed while setting intent:

  • The statement must be in the present tense, otherwise the subconscious mind will continue to manifest it in the future.
  • The statement must be precise and totally unambiguous. Spend some time deliberately trying to misinterpret or subvert the phrase.
  • The phrase must be brief, but this should be balanced against the need for clarity.
  • The statement must be positive. The subconscious mind interprets everything positively and ignores words like ‘not’. ‘I will not..’ becomes ‘I will…’
  • A strong declaration at the beginning makes the whole phrase stronger. Max prefers to use “It is my will…”, but acknowledges that many Chaos magicians skip the initial statement altogether.

In Cutter’s video, the example given is I HAVE LUCID DREAMS WHILE SLEEPING. It is a positive phrase in the present tense, which is both clear and concise.

Creating the graphic

Write the phrase in block capitals, and remove duplicated letters: I HAVE LUCID DREAMS WHILE SLEEPING

Some techniques suggest breaking the phrase down into its elements  – IT IS MY WILL // TO HAVE LUCID DREAMS // WHILE SLEEPING – then remove the duplicate letters from each part – IT IS MY WILL // TO HAVE LUCID DREAMS // WHILE SLEEPING

This method is advisable for longer sentences, so that the sigil doesn’t end up as a mess of letters.

Using the letters, create a graphic design.Letters can be inverted, mirrored, rotated, resized, overlapping and/or connected until the design is satisfyingly impressive.

If the ‘component parts’ method was used, three proto-sigils should be created, which are then merged into the final graphic.

At this point, the paper with the sentence and list of letters written on it should be discarded, and the sigil refined and simplified until it no longer resembles a construct of letters, but a purely graphical device. A balance must be struck between making the sigil graphical and powerful looking, and making the meaning of the sigil obscure enough that the long-term memory cannot recall it. Containing it within a circle can help make it more concise and to retain the energy it is empowered with in the next step.

“A sigil whose meaning is remembered at the point is it charged is a sigil that won’t work”
~Joseph Max, on Spare’s theory

Both Cutter and Max suggests creating four or five sigils at the same time, then putting them out of sight for a week, or until you forget which is which (no peeking!), then charge them once the meaning is forgotten, although Ray Sherwin (Action Sigils) suggests that this fragments the energies used and is undesirable (Chaos magicians seem particularly bad for contradicting each other), preferring to create an Action sigil instead (see bibliography).

Another method of forgetting is to keep the sigil around where you will see it regularly, in such a fashion that it fades into the background and the conscious mind ignores it and forgets its meaning.

Empowerment

Here, Cutter and the Chaos magicians differ; for Cutter, the empowerment stage is the act of filling the glyph with energy and setting the mind to change the world around it. The Chaos magicians set the sigil into the subconscious in order for it act upon the magician. For my part, I’m not sure of the ‘right’ way, if they are both saying the same thing or even if it matters how it works, so long as it does (actually, it matters to me, but I will have to let it slide until I know more about magic and the mind).

The sigil is introduced to the subconscious while in a state of trance (here Max provides a list of techniques for achieving this, including yoga, drumming, chanting, dancing and sex). One of Spare’s suggestions for implanting the sigil  is to paint it on to a mirror, then stare through the mirror into your own eyes without blinking until the sigil disappears from view.

When meditating or chanting to induce a trance state, it is possible to create a specific mantra by rearranging the letters used to create the sigil into nonsense words.

Following Cutter’s advice, the act of creation itself is a powerful tool, and one that can be utilised to charge the sigil, although Max recommends destroying the created sigil afterwards. The time and attention spent on creating the sigil-image is a huge investment of energy and intent, and it becomes more important to use borders to contain the energy with the image. Any colours or symbolic elements used must be fully understood and used deliberately and with awareness of their meaning.

Afterwards:

After the sigil is created and implanted/charged, it is important to disassociate yourself from the ritual. Max recommends abstaining from meditation, magical or craft work, discussing the ritual with anyone, sexual activity or philosophical thought for about three hours.

Of vital importance is to avoid the stimulus that caused you to create the sigil. A sigil with a long-term outcome (to earn more money, to improve a relationship) is unlikely to work if you constantly fret over having a low-paid job or an uncaring partner. If this is unavoidable, a different magical technique is probably required.

Avoid journalling the working, to encourage forgetfulness. It might be a good idea to record the intent before working, then put the diary away for a few months, or cover up the entry until a later date.

It is not necessary to repeat the procedure. In fact, according to Jan Fries (Visual Magick), repeating the process will negate it’s effects.

Bibliography:

Boudicca’s Bard: Sigils is an e-book by Chaos magician Joseph Max.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 – Rob Cutter’s YouTube channel (now defunct)

Sigils, Servitors, and Godforms is part one of three of an essay by Mark Defrates

Action sigils by Ray Sherwin

Further reading:

Spare, Austin Osman;  The Book of Pleasure

Fries, Jan; Visual Magick

Carroll, Peter;  Liber Kaos

Crowley, Aleister;  Magick

Sound sigils by Kevin Max Krebs

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I’ve recently discovered Rob Cutter’s YouTube channel (username: Angeldeluz1970). He’s been inactive for 2 years, with no intention of returning, so I want to jot down some of his advice so I still have it if the videos get deleted for whatever reason.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Candle meditation

Set a piece of paper and a pencil in your meditation space.

Darken the room and light a candle.

Cutter suggests a birthday candle, as he has found that they burn for about ten minutes. As you wish to increase the length of the practice, increase the size of the candle.

Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths.

Centre.

Watch the centre of the candle’s flame.

Focus on the top of the flame.

As you find your mind wandering, make a mark on the paper and return your attention to the flame.

This is intended to stop the  cycle of ‘Oh no, I just had a thought! Drat! That was a thought, too. And that. And that…’

As you practice, the number of marks you obtain will increase as you become more aware of your thoughts; eventually you will be able to school your mind and the marks will decrease in number.

Do not try to empty the mind – that’s a recipe for failure. As a wise master once said “Do or do not; there is no try”.

Cutter recommends doing this for ten minutes daily, followed by ten minutes of visualisation and ten of energy-raising, which seems reasonable enough.

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I have tried this meditation twice now – once in the morning and once at night – and I find it unpleasant. Gazing at a flame for ten minutes leaves my eyes feeling strained and tired, even first thing after I wake, and neither attempt left me feeling as calm and relaxed as my regular breathing meditation

Perhaps calling it a ‘meditation’ is a misnomer. Concentration practice might be more accurate, but I still think that perhaps there is a way to increase my focus without killing my eyes.

EDIT – 13-Aug-2010:

This method is similar to the second stage of a Buddhist practice called ‘Trataka’.

The first stage of Trataka is fixing the gaze on a symbol (e.g.: the Om symbol, or a deity image). “The practice continues until the eyes begin to water, at which point they are closed, and relaxed.” (Wikipedia: Trataka, 13-Aug-2010).

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This post is out-of-date.

I have updated it and expanded it in More on sigils

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I’ve recently discovered Rob Cutter’s YouTube channel (username: Angeldeluz1970). He’s been inactive for 2 years, with no intention of returning, so I want to jot down some of his advice so I still have it if the videos get deleted for whatever reason.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Sigils work on the principle of conscious creation – that the subconscious mind is responsible for the creation of the reality we experience on a day-to-day basis. This creation is most effective when it is not interfered with by the conscious mind.

To create a sigil, form a statement of desire.

In the video, the example given is I HAVE LUCID DREAMS WHILE SLEEPING.

The statement must be in the present tense, otherwise the subconscious mind will continue to manifest it in the future.

Using each letter once (per letter, not per occurrence), create a graphic design.

Letters can be inverted, mirrored, rotated, resized, overlapping and/or connected if desired

The sigil is basically a word puzzle that the subconscious will continue to chew on long after the conscious mind has forgotten it. This is ideal for subconscious creation, where the conscious mind will get in the way.

To facilitate the conscious mind in forgetting the meaning of the sigil, create four or five at the same time, then hide them for a week or until you forget which is which (no peeking!). If they look similar enough that you can’t distinguish between them after a week, they may be even more effective.

Although it may be possible to get effects by just leaving the sigils lying around, a better method is to imbue them with energy via energy-raising or meditation.

A concentration meditation (candle flame meditation, breathing exercises etc) will suffice for this, using deep breathing to raise energy whilst looking at the sigil.

Of more interest to me personally is the practice of raising energy through creative practices.

The time and attention spent on creating the sigil-image is a huge investment of energy and intent

Use borders to contain the energy with the image

Use colours and symbolic or graphic elements purposefully, aware of their deeper meanings

Use glyphs (eg: Ogham or Runes) to imbue characteristics into the image

After imbuing the sigils with energy, regular review will keep them in mind and enhance their effects.

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A deceptively simple game for one or more players (depending on how many friends you want to lose today).

Rules:

  • Alternate questions and answers.
  • Every question must be answered.
  • ‘I don’t know’ is never an acceptable answer, unless followed by ‘I’ll go look it up’ or similar.
  • ‘I need to think about that’ is only OK, if you do think about it and come back.
  • The only question permitted is ‘why?’.
  • The game NEVER ends.

Apparently kids are great at this game, but I propose using for some serious introspection.

Answers like ‘I like making people happy’ aren’t the end of the game, but the beginning. By prompting you to look hard at yourself and not only the motivations behind your actions but the motivations behind the motivations, you can begin to know yourself. Maybe you like making people happy because you want them to acknowledge you, or because you want them to do what you ask them, rather than because it makes you feel like a good person. If do you find a truly altruistic answer, then good for you; have a biscuit and try a different line of enquiry.

It isn’t an easy game, nor a short one, but it can bring huge rewards – once you de-construct yourself by constant, directed questioning*, you have to face and accept all the parts of yourself you don’t like or don’t understand before you can start to put yourself back together again. Once you’ve faced yourself, you can begin to change and grow.

That is your prize for playing.

*Undirected questioning – ‘why did I do that?’ or ‘what would have happened if I said…?’ – leads to self-doubt and guilt, which is the opposite of the Why? game’s intended outcome.

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