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From Maleck comes this topic:
“Can you talk about the use of tools in Magic and spirit work? Pros, cons, appropriate vs inappropriate use?”
Tools can be damned useful -until they get in the way or become an impediment. A hex head screwdriver is only really useful for taking care of hex screws and the like. A claw hammer’s primary purpose is to hit and remove nails from wood pieces. If I try to use a screwdriver to drill a nail it can get the job done, with a great deal more effort, but it likely will not do the job as neatly or as well. A tool becomes a pro so long as it is an asset to the work or working at hand, and a con when it is not. If the only tool I have ever used is a screwdriver then I will need practice to get good at driving nails, but this is a far better use of my time than to get good at driving nails with a screwdriver.
Appropriate tools in magic are those that are useful to the task at hand, do not detract from the working, enhance the working itself by their presence/use, and deliver the best results with appropriate experience and training. Inappropriate tools in magic are those that are not useful to the task at hand, detract from the working, disempower or impede the working itself by their presence/us, and block the best results through overcomplication or by requiring such a high degree of training/work needed to use it that it becomes impractical to work with/use. An appropriate tool for divination could be something like a deck of tarot cards. It could also be used as an appropriate tool for magic.
Let us say you wish to enhance your physical strength, and are doing spellwork to help with this. Now, the first step should be to decide on what exercises or work is appropriate to building your strength. When you select exercises appropriate to your level of skill, understanding, and time, then I would include spiritual work. A simple way to do this with tarot is to combine the imagery in a particular deck with the purpose of a working. In a traditional tarot deck you would work with Strength to this end. If you were to incorporate spiritwork, you might put the card on an altar made specifically for the working as the centerpiece focus, and every time you go to work out you make an offering of water, ask a God or spirit to bless your pre-workout drink, and then go do your exercises. Just working with the tarot alone, perhaps you carry Strength or a copy of the card in your wallet and sing or chant the name three times. Just like reps in a workout routine the chanting builds up your spiritual strength and resolve to do the physical work over time.
It is worth pointing out not every tool need be physical. You can get the effect of ‘reps’ I wrote above regarding Strength by just imagining the card, or even going so far as to incorporate a telesterion working with it. However, I find physical tools tend to have a grounding presence in this world. Not every tool is a tool for grounding excess energies, mind you, but every physical tool grounds the work and working in this world by the act of working with it. It actually pushes us to incorporate more of our souls this way, by not leaving out the lyke, the body, of our souls from spiritual workings. That is a huge pro. It takes it out of ‘upper head’ or thought experimentation. By making gestures with a tool, even a hand, I should be talking actions that carry meaning and add to the work.
An excellent place to talk about the usefulness of tools in magic and spiritwork is the use of staves in seiðr. If I am working with a staff in a seiðr context then the staff occupies a place of invitation, coercion, and/or calling to spirits, as well as directing energies during these and any other magic work that can occur during the seiðr session. Ornamentation, such as metal rings, animal representations, and Runes carved into or attached to the staff can add to its versatility.
The vaettir are not only ‘out there’; with the invitation or compulsion of the staff, They are very much here, perhaps even entering the staff and/or the seiðmaðr. Is the staff strictly speaking necessary for good seiðr work? No, but it helps.
Whether or not a tool is necessary in magic or spiritwork depends on the kind being done. If you are doing sympathetic magic you cannot do it at all without at least one piece of representation for the thing being worked on. Tools are, potentially, both containers and directors of magic and spirits. Staves, distaffs, string, carving tools, weapons, and so much more can not only be a medium for magic, they can be repositories of it. The tools can, themselves, be enlivened by a vaettr or be full of vaettir. Tools can have personal bonds with their owners. Tools can be ongoing conduits of connection between a God, Ancestors, vaettr, and the owner.
Even stripping out every single physical tool from a magical practice and wholly relying on techniques like visualization, song, telesterion/memory palace, and/or astral work, we still use tools. The telesterion/memory palace is a great big damn tool if you think about it. Its original function was to be an imagined mnemonic device, and it has immense spiritual applications. In visualization we still have to use the imagination to link concepts, ideas, and abstraction into more concrete steps and actions. A lot of times visualization uses objects, areas, concepts and the like, that are grounded in our experiences, such as the tree meditation in Trance-portation by Diana Paxson. Our popular culture through Star Trek and Star Wars provides us with examples of what shielding may look like. Likewise, our auditory landscape is shaped by what we put into our minds through our media, and this is true whether the medium are binaural beats, a drumbeat, or something from Heilung.
I think it is pretty hard for us as humans to completely dispose of the idea of tools. They are such a part of our imaginal and personal landscapes that there are very few places I could see where tools themselves would be inappropriate, just inappropriate to a given situation. Perhaps with Pack Magic there is less overt need for physical tools, yet many of the techniques that bring us into better trance states or the like are made easier using tools such as cellphones and headphones.
The biggest con to a tool is it being necessary to the work you want to do, magical or spiritual, and/or not being able to get it or use it effectively. The pro, though, is our tools can make every aspect of the work we have to do easier, more effective, and more thorough. The less work my hugr or hamr has to do, the more I can concentrate on doing the work rather than setting up for it.
One thought on “Patreon Topic 53: Using Tools in Magic and Spiritwork”
I think you used the term “telesterion” in this entry for the first time in my recollection on your blog, and then you went on to link it with “memory palace” work later in the piece. I have never heard that particular usage before; most of my experience with the term comes from Ancient Greek Mystery matters, particularly the topography/architecture/sacred spaces involved in the Eleusinian Mysteries. So, your usages here are entirely unfamiliar to me.
Can you say a bit more about that, and where you encountered this usage?
(It isn’t that a primarily Heathen spiritworker can’t use terms or that come from Hellenic practice–hey, syncretism happens, and should!–it’s just that I am curious as to the history of the usage in this particular matter.)