Defence Against the Dark Arts (When You are Locked Out of the Circle)
Article ID: 14915
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: February 26th. 2012
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A young woman contacted me a while back asking for knowledge. Not some Craft secret or anything. What she wanted to know was why. WHY?
You see, she had spent the year or two (or more) being harassed by what we shall call a (demon) nasty a**hole spirit. She hadnít done anything in particular to attract such a beastie. Sheís not sure when it found her, but she thinks it started with nightmares that kept her up at night and by the end of it, she was a mess. Depression, lack of sleep, couldnít really eat. The joy of life being sucked out of her, strange obsessions and compulsions. The constant feeling of being watched.
It wasnít a mental illness, it wasnít a physical illness and she wasnít playing games or looking for attention.
She searched high and low for help and found none. She lives in a large-ish city in the USA, a city with a thriving Pagan community. Yet, there was no help for her there. She went to bookshops and asked for help. She went to Meet and Greet Coffee Cauldron type events and found no help. She went to the local teaching coven and found no help. She went to the ADF grove and found no help (they told her to pray away the pain) . She asked around for help, advice, a book recommendation, anything.
She went to her parents, who took her to a doctor, who said it was just the stress of her first year at college.
Finally after begging around for help for more than a year, someone suggested she contact a shamanic practitioner in a neighbouring town. He took one look at her and KNEW something was not right. He helped her chase away the a**hole spirit who was hurting her, who was driving her into insanity.
What she wanted to know from me was why. Why did no one help her? She feels as if she must have spoken to every single out Pagan, Heathen and Witch in her community before someone pointed her in the right direction. WHY? Why did they leave her twisting in the wind?
The girl is doing better. She contacted me through my podcast and wants to stay anonymous. What was troubling her the most was how hard it was to find anything other than vague references and ďOh, itís probably all in your headĒ.
I wanted to answer her and it took a while. There are many answers to this question, because different people would not (or could not) help for different reasons.
This is something that I have struggled with myself to a certain extent. Not because I have dealt with being harassed or abused by a nasty a**hole spirit in the manner that this young woman was. I have never had a demon try to groom me for possession. I have however, been hounded by my own spirits. Also, I was once a young woman dealing with an unhealthy and abusive family situation, various untreated learning disabilities and anxiety Ö and found no help.
So in no particular order, hereís why it might be hard to find help if you are being called to shamanize, being hounded by spirits, dealing with a curse or being harassed or abused by some nasty a**hole spirit (etc) . For the record I tend to use the term spirit to mean ANY and/or ALL of the unseen.
If you ask around, there are a lot of people who donít really believe in the ďwoo stuffĒ. Thatís why we call it the woo stuff. There are a lot of agnostic, atheist and archetypal folks in Ö (oh, whatever we are calling it or not calling it now) our religious body/community/whatever. So a kid dealing with unseen awfulness, who does the right thing by asking around for help, might run into a bunch of people who donít believe that what is happening to her is even really, real. Not really. Really?
This doesnít make them bad people, they just donít believe. This makes them a poor source of help however. Though they might be able to suggest a book Ö or website, or something. Itís no skin of their nose, right? Right?
There are also plenty of people who donít really believe in mental illness (or neurological disorders or learning disabilities etc) either. People who think depression, addiction, or anxiety are not real illnesses. You just have to suck it up. I tell someone that I have social anxiety and ADHD (that I have been working on for the better part of a decade, thanks) and the majority of the time the response I get is an eye roll and a condensing look. Excuses, excuses.
I recall an article on Witchvox years ago wherein the author berates lazy, young Pagans for not meditating as often as they should. At one point she made sarcastic remarks about ADHD. It seems she was some kind of teacher of the Craft who resented having young people with neurobiological disorders ask her for extra help because their disorder made things like meditation more difficult. This is exactly the kind of attitude you will run into when you tell people in the Pagan community that you think you are being hounded by spirits or being cursed (etc) .
The reaction I used to get when I was dealing with my first visionary and shamanic experiences were the eye roll, the condescending look. Hell, try talking about being god-owned in a mixed group of Pagans. The eye rolls, the condescending look.
Try talking about hardcore, old school, folkloric Witchcraft. Folks will say ďOh no one actually works with piss and blood and sticks pins in things. No one does that old stuff, anymore.Ē (I can personally attest to the fact that this notion is wrong. Would you like to meet my blasting rod? Or see what I put into spell bottles?)
They donít believe. Even if they think these things are possible, they certainly donít believe itís happening to you.
Not everyone does it, but there are some who believe that kids and newbies donít know what they are talking about. In a way they donít; they probably lack the vocabulary to know how to express whatís happening to them. If we assume that someone if a layman, we can assume that they might not know what they are dealing with or how to express what is happening.
A kid who is being abused in her sleep by a nasty a**hole demon-type might call it a ghost or poltergeist or a boogeyman. Itís like how they used to misdiagnose women who were having heart attacks because women describe their symptoms differently from the (male written) medical textbooks. Hell, terminology games piss me off. Iíve resorted to defiantly calling everything spirits most of the time now.
They might assume that you are looking for attention or putting on teenager theatrics. Everybody is guilty of making this assumption at some point. We all look back at ourselves at that age and think about how ďstupidĒ we were, right? Then we project that onto to other people.
It wouldnít be surprising for someone to think that you have a bad case of ďnewbie thinks sheís been cursedĒ. Once again a newbie or kid not knowing what is going on might think she is cursed. Yes, most of the time if you think youíve been cursed you havenít been cursed. Sometimes (rarely) it means that you have been. It could also mean that some spirit is hurting you. You donít know what it is; you just know something is terribly wrong. You may think that you have been cursed or are being haunted.
Basically, you might know something is wrong but not know the exact nature of what is wrong. Therefore, you canít properly describe whatís wrong when seeking help. Gosh, can you imagine how hard that must be?
A lot of Pagans, well meaning as they may be, are deaf, blind and dumb. They donít see or feel or sense the spirit world. They have no real concept of the otherside. How can they help if they are blind to it? They canít. Thereís a fabulous story that Lon Milo DuQuette tells about how once he lead a workshop on Circle casting and parting the Veil. It scared the hell out of some poor woman. Because despite having practiced for years, she had never actually felt anything before! This is startlingly common.
If you find someone who is willing to listen, someone who believes that something might be going on with you, they might not be able to help. Most of us stick to the lighter side of things if you catch my drift. Most folks just donít go down that road. They donít have the tools to help you. The trouble with the Harm None ethos is that it means no one knows how to chase off a bully. They might have a dozen ways to create a shield or ward a room, but to actually go toe to toe with some nasty little brownie? Most Pagans, Heathens and (sadly) Witches, have no idea how to even begin such an operation.
Many people donít want to get involved, because they have a reputation to protect. What if people found out that Lady Name Dropper actually has no clue how to handle a nasty a**hole spirit? What if Lord Training Coven tried to help but had to admit defeat? What if he made things worse? What if Lady Iím So Dignified was caught in such an embarrassing situation as actually trying to help the weird goth girl with her spirit problem? GASP!
We donít like weirdoes, freak, geeks or crazy people and you look like one. Whether you are being hounded by your own spirits, being harassed by a nasty spirit or being horribly cursed by someone, it can look a lot like what you need is a doctor. These things can cause (or trigger) depression and anxiety and insomnia. Or maybe you just look like a weirdo with your greasy unkempt hair and your odd clothing and glassy eyes.
Most of the books out there that talk about things like (for example) receiving the call to shamanize, will mention that many become ill but donít typically mention how. What kind of illness. Itís kind of vague. When someone is wasting away, losing their sh*t or canít get out of bed (etc) we usually assume that itís something a doctor ought to deal with. Because you should see a doctor and all (that should be one of the first things you do) , but sometimes thereís something else going on. The trouble is that to the observer, it can look like just a bad case the blues or the flu (or depression or anorexia orÖ)
I wasnít even close to ready when I got the call. I was stupid and I forced it too damned early. I was clever enough, and had been practicing long enough (about 6 years) , to know that it was probably inevitable. But young and brash enough to loose patience and go chasing after it. Iíve written about the experience a bit before. I over indulged in some potent flying ointment and meet up with the spirits that I was familiar with at the time. I demanded things that I had no right to ask for, things I hadnít earned, and got my ***iní ass kicked for it.
It was rather like barging into someoneís home because you have a crush on them and then seeing that they are into some really kinky sh*t. Getting freaked, running out of the house thinking it was all a big mistake. And then they decide to stalk you.
I was in my early twenties. I had punk hair and pale skin. I wore raggedy clothes than didnít match and didnít fit right. I had bags under my eyes. I was naught but skin and bones. I have a big tattoo on my arm. I had body piercings at the time. I wore the dreaded and offensive oversized pentacle around my neck. No one was going to help the likes of me.
Certainly not in 2001 when everyone hated on us kids who had discovered Paganism in the 1990s. Do you remember? We were just addicted to Charmed and Buffy and had watched The Craft too many times. How dare we call ourselves Witches or Wiccans or Pagans? We were all just a bunch of fluffy bunnies! We were ruining Paganism with our solitary eclectic ways and our Doc Martins and purple hair! It was cool to hunt fluffy bunnies, cool to pick on newbies, people were proud of themselves for being a**holes to us.
There was no way that I was being called, struggling to deal with Mysteries greater than I could wrap my young mind around, or under going initiation by spirits and gods. Nope. I was just some punk ass kid. Just another annoying solitary, eclectic, wannabe making up stories. The ďwiseĒ grey hairs turned their backs on me.
How dare you ask about spirit work and otherworld travel and repairing missing soul parts and being a horse for a god and all that stuff? How dare I ask about parting the Veil and hedgecrossing and how to do battle with a spirit? Thatís second-degree stuff at least. You arenít allowed to know that. You are not worthy of my knowledge! It must be so nice to belong to a tradition that expects you to just stand there and let a kid drown because throwing them a life preserver would be revealing initiatory mysteries. Iíd really like someone to explain how he or she justifies that?
I was on my own.
I was in my early twenties. I had pale skin. I had bags under my eyes. I was naught but skin and bones. I wasnít sleeping. I was always cold. My body ached. I went from always being early for work, performing well and making great money to failing miserably at my job. Things that had seemed pretty minor once I escaped the horror of high school, like my ADHD or Dyscalculia, sudden reared their heads and got much, much worse. Stuff form my childhood kept coming up. I started self isolating. I didnít want to do anything but sleep. Allergies I never had before suddenly flared up. My relationship started a slow decline. Then I started having anxiety attacks.
To some I looked like another newbie trying to get attention. To some I looked like I was a head case or maybe a junkie (I was accused of such) . To some it looked I needed a doctor or a therapist (I got both) . To some it looked like I was trying to cheat or find a short cut to the knowledge that they hoard like jealous dragons. What I really needed was help or a mentor or someone to throw me a scrap of insight or encouragement (I got none of that) .
I didnít look like someone with fire in the head, causing her pain. People have this stupid ***ing idea that someone who is on deeply spiritual path, someone who is a good Crafter, someone who is surrounded by spirits (etc) is going to look the good witch Glenda. All smiles and perfect hair and floating around in stylish clothes. This is not always the case.
This is certainly not the case of someone who is being hounded by spirits or abused by a demon.
I have no heroic climax to offer you as an end of my story. I just slogged through one day at a time. I spent a lot of time in libraries, I worked the land, and I struggled to understand what my spirits demanding I learn. I poured every little scrap of strength and energy into my practice. Eventually got my sh*t together, more or less. It was rather like getting lost in the woods with a broken leg while also being smeared with honey. Thereís no rescue crew out there looking for you, so youíll have to find your own way out of the woods. But kid, if you actually make it out alive youíll be Chuck Norris. Me? Some ten years later, Iíve set up camp in the edge of woods; I can see the clearing from here but I think Iíll stay put for a while.
We are protecting ourselves. Even if someone can help you, they may not want to take the risk. Getting down and dirty with a nasty spirit might mean it turns its attention onto you. Getting involved in helping someone being cursed might cause the hexer to start throwing at you. If you have kids at home you might be reluctant to help. If you are dealing with some stress and trouble in your own life you might not be in the position to take on helping someone. Once again though, someone in such a situation could still offer some advice, or recommend a book, or suggest someone who can help. It wouldnít be that hard, now would it? Would it?
Of course, maybe they just donít give a sh*t about you. There are plenty of people in the world who wouldnít help you because they are just rotten people. The Pagan community is full of really awesome people, but that doesnít mean we donít have a few sadistic creeps or apathetic narcissists (and so on) in our midst.
In our society itís common to blame the victim. If a young person fell into the wrong crowd and got mixed up with drug, then came looking for a way out, are we supposed to turn away? Because they got themselves in that situation to begin with, right? Surely when I went chasing after that Big Impressive Mystery I was asking for trouble. Iíll agree with you on that. Does that mean it was okay to leave me twisting in the wind? It is somehow a Pagan value to leave someone who made a mistake to drown in sh*t? You brought this on yourself; therefore you deserve to suffer, kid.
What if you didnít do anything to bring the bad situation on yourself? Whoís going to believe that? Who is going to care? Itís so much easier to blame the victim. Itís her own damned fault; let her figure out how to deal on her own. How do you justify leaving a hurting kid to suffer alone? By blaming her for making a mistake? For being vulnerable to attack and abuse by some nasty spirit or a**hole ex boyfriend who is now throwing curses at her? You made your bed, go lie in it and NO I am not going to so much as suggest a way to make that bed. No help for you! You donít deserve help or kindness or empathy or compassion. How is this attitude such a big part of Paganism?
In the Pagan community especially (I can give most Heathens and Witches a pass on this) , there is this silly notion that if you never do harm, no entity will ever do harm unto you. This is like a pacifist thinking that no one will ever break into her home and rape her, because she is a pacifist. If youíre a pacifist, youíre a pacifist. I can respect that (even if it makes no sense to me) some of the people I respect most are pacifists. But donít think for a second that this ďI do no harmĒ thing is going to somehow protect you. Pacifism is not a shield. Me? Iíll fight.
Therefore, if you are being hurt by something, you brought it on yourself. You didnít Harm None. Because being bathed in White light keeps you safe. You must have been dabbling in something dark and awful! You deserve no help.
We donít want to recommend someone from the OTHER PATH. We canít acknowledge the validity of someone elseís tradition by recommending that you go see them for help. Heaven forbid! I think about some of the people on other Paths here in Ottawa (and other places I have lived) and I bet that if someone came to them for help, they would not suggest they go see me. Not because they donít think I could help. Because then theyíd have to acknowledge my Path actually has some value. That I can do something they canít. Elitism causes cannibalism, the kind that eats our children. But hey, so long as Iím top dog, who gives a sh*t?
We donít know who can help you, or where to find them. Ask around at Pagan Pride Day or something, who is the go-to guy for dealing with nasty stuff? It might be hard to find an answer. This is another symptom of ďMy Trad is Better than Your TradĒ. Itís also a symptom of non-belief. Those crazy Hedgewitch-y types actually believe in this stuff? They actually work with spirits? The freaks! They must be playing make believe! Those Ceremonial Magicians summon demons and get them to bend to their will? Madness! Dark Arts! Keep away from me!
Okay, enough calling out the community for not being helpful. I really am trying to be constructive with my criticism, but I know most wonít see it that way. Thatís fine. Iím bitter and jaded enough to not care anymore.
What is a person who is in dire straights to actually do?
People who might be able to help you (if you are being hounded/called by your spirits and they are making you sick/crazy, if you are being abused by a nasty a**hole spirit, if you genuinely think you pissed someone off enough to throw curse at you and so forth)
Someone who has experience and a good reputation as:
- A shaman
- A spirit working or shamanic Witch. We go by many names: Hedgewitch, toad witch, cunning folk. Just ask for the Witch who does the crazy stuff, like trance work or spirit work.
- A Siedr practitioner
- A Voodoo priest/ess
-A ceremonial magician
-A Hoodoo practitioner
-A reputable Botanica
I think you get the idea. Look for the people who actually work with the unseen and walk the grey areas. Those who follow a crooked path, not one that is all love and light. Obviously these people might still turn you away. They might not be able to help you, or might not want to. (A pregnant lady canít be dealing with other peopleís demons) But if they are even halfway competent in their Craft and half way decent human beings, theyíd at the very least suggest a course of action for you to take, or point you to someone who can help you, or something. Something! Itís not that hard to suggest a book or website or something.
Some things that you can do if you are having troubles with the unseen:
Find a reputable diviner or reader (someone good at tarot or runes for example) and have them do reading or casting to divine what is bothering you, what is the root cause. They may also be able to point you in the right direction for what action to take.
Place protective wards and magicks. Such as witch bottles, witch balls, bundles of protective herbs, inscribing runes and so forth. Itís 101 stuff and yet very few people actually do this seriously.
Cleanse and bless your home and self on a regular basis. Iíll admit I tend to ďcleanse only on an as neededĒ myself but I do hallow my home on a semi regular basis. If something bad were happening, Iíd be battening down the hatches.
Donít bring people home who you are not comfortable with. The same goes for any one else. That means wights and fairies too. Whatís the old saying? Never conjure something you canít throw down with and win like a boss.
Keep one knife sharp and clean and another other dull and icky. Donít be afraid to brandish one and tell some intruder spirit that ďI will cut you and *** you up. Back off!Ē Donít make threats you wonít follow up on though. Would you hesitate to shoot a strange man barging into your kidís bedroom? Defend yourself if you have to. Coat your blade in power and anger and fear and cut that ***er up.
Ceremonial magick has all sorts of experience with working with all sorts of Ö entities. It doesnít hurt to read a little of that stuff even if itís not your style.
Those old grimories? They are full of that sh*t. Find them (often free on the internet, people) and read them. There are also people who have written books explaining, or theorizing about, this stuff. You donít have to master it. Unless you HAVE to master it. But at least take a look at it.
Learn how to curse. Learn how to do harm magickally and energetically so that you can actively defend yourself. Sorry, I am not even going to give the Wiccans a free pass on this stuff. I am sure Grandpa Gerald would agree that you should be able to defend yourself from the dark arts and nasty spirits if it came to it. Sometimes good thoughts and white light is not enough. Actually, itís usually not even close to enough.
Build a good relationship with deity, the ancestors, your own spirits, the wight in the tree in your yard and so forth. If you really have a strong bond with such, they might protect you or at least give warning.
Have scapegoat-y things. You know the witch bottle, the poppet with your hair in it, something that will attract bad sh*t to it and away from you. (For more information, I recommend the resources listed below) .
Books to read:
Psychic Self-Defence by Dion Fortune
A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol Mack and Dinah Mack
Encyclopaedia of Witchcraft and Demonology by Russell H. Robbins
Spirit Possession and Exorcism: History, Psychology, and Neurobiology by Patrick McNamara
The Witchesí Book of Ghosts and Exorcism by Robin Skelton and Jean Kozocari
Psychic Shield: The Personal Handbook of Psychic Protection by Caitlin Matthews
Magickal Self Defence: A Quantum Approach to Warding by Kerr Cuhulain
Monsters: An Investigatorís Guide to Magical Beings by John Michael Greer
Protection and Reversal Magick: A Witchís Defense Manual (Beyond 101) by Jason Miller
The Secret Commonwealth: An Essay on the Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and for the Most Part) Invisible People, Heretofore Going Under the Name of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies by Robert Kirk
An Introduction to the Psychology of Paranormal Belief and Experience by Tony Jinks
Carmina Gadelica by Alexander Carmichael
Defences Against the Witchesí Craft: Anti-cursing charms from English folk magick, traditional witchcraft and the grimoire traditions by English root magician by John Canard
Ozark Magic and Folklore by Vance Randolph
The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Including the Demotic Spells by Hanz Deitier Betz
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