Buying a Crystal Ball (and not getting ripped off)

March 29, 2009

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So I just got a new crystal ball, my fourth, and I thought I would give some advice on getting a crystal ball. Crystal balls are very useful things. They’re magickal tools with 101+ uses. Unfortunately most people think they can’t afford a crystal ball, or that they’re not worth the exorbitant prices some stores charge. Most people who sell crystal balls are scam artists using misinformation to sell items for more than they’re worth. If you’re looking into buying a crystal ball, and don’t already know much about them, please read this article and inform yourself. You may be paying $200 or more for something you could buy for $30 (I’m not exaggerating about the price difference either).

Not everything that gets called a crystal ball is actually a ‘crystal’ ball. Although I have four crystal balls, I only have one ‘crystal’ ball. Two of my balls are laser cut glass, and one is amethyst. There’s a big difference between these three types of balls, and they have very different prices.

Real crystal balls tend to be a bit pricey. One the size of your fist can easily go for $50-$100. Expect to pay at least $150 for a descent sized ball, and $250 or more wouldn’t be unreasonable. Large crystal balls can cost a lot more. Things that can raise the price of a ball include its size, flawlessness, age, and occult history. Magicians are usually the only people interested in these types of balls because there are cheaper options available for decorative pieces. Look around though. Sometimes you can get a good deal on a ball, especially a used one. Some of the older sentient balls are looking for the right owner, and they’ll drive away prospective buyers, and drive down their price, until the right owner comes along. Real crystal balls are worth spending the money on too. They’re powerful tools, and once you use one you’ll see how superior it is to the laser cut glass balls. If you can afford it, I highly recommend a real crystal ball.

If you can’t afford it, the laser cut glass balls are still useful. These really are a poor man’s crystal ball. It’s not as powerful as crystal is, but it can still do most of the things crystal can, just not as well. These balls work great for enchantments and divinations. They’re also always flawless. Although they’re not as good as crystal, with a little TLC laser cut glass balls can be powerful and invaluable magical tools. They can also be bought for about a tenth of the price of a real crystal ball.

The problem is most retailers sell laser cut glass at real crystal prices, because most people can’t tell the difference between the two, and many don’t even realize that there is a difference. Customers will usually compare the price of a laser cut glass to a real crystal ball and think they’re getting a deal on the price. It’s gotten to the point that almost every store I’ve been to or website I’ve looked at has had the higher price for real crystal, but most of the products being sold are laser cut glass.

With laser cut glass, a ball the size of your fist should cost less than $15. Expect to pay around $30 for a descent sized ball that’s about as big as a soda can, maybe a little more for one slightly bigger. One the size of your head should go for less than $70. The $120-$180 price range is really for gigantic sized balls.

You can usually tell laser cut glass because it’s flawless and perfect. Even the best crystal balls will have at least a few minor flaws if you look close enough. In fact, some practitioners actually prefer the flaws because they use them as a  divinatory aid. Also on a real tumbled crystal ball you can sometimes see the grooves from the tumbling on the outside. Finally anything with a glass stand included is almost always laser cut glass (and the stand should drive the price up from what I quoted above either).

Now there’s also another category of ball. These are made from precious stones, and the prices can vary widely. Some are far more valuable than crystal. Some aren’t. You have to consider the size, the cost of the stone used, the demand for the stone (low demand can actually drive up the price), it’s beauty, and how good the quality is. Generally speaking, if a stone is jewelry quality, expect to pay more. If a stone isn’t jewelry quality however, it’s often times worthless to anyone except practitioners who can still utilize it for its innate spiritual qualities. For example emerald is very expensive. You can get tumbled emerald for about a dollar a stone though. It’s because the emerald is such a low quality, and so small, it can’t be used for any type of jewelry. It’s worthless to miners, except to tumble and sell to occultists. The same is true of some of these crystal balls. Also keep in mind these things are treasured by New Agers, so they can get pricey. Depending on the price you can be looking at paying a premium over crystal.

If you’re looking for laser cut glass, check online stores and swap meets. These are the places where I’ve seen the best deals, but you have to look around, and be adamant about not paying too much. There’s no reason to spend what many retailers are asking, because you can get a real crystal ball at those prices.

For balls made of precious stone, try the new-age stores. A lot of them carry them. And if you’re interested in a stone that has a low demand, a lot of times they have one sitting on the shelf that gets discount after discount and can be gotten at a bargain.


Groups of Four

March 28, 2009

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Remember that scene in the Wild Bunch, when the four outlaws grab their guns and walk down the street, ready to face off against an entire army to save their cohort. Or how about the scene in the Angel episode Darla when Angel, Darla, Spike and Dru all walk in a group out of the ruins of a Chinese town. We see this image, four warriors walking together, fearless, again and again throughout film and television. Hell, even the bible talks of the four horseman of the apocalypse. There’s something about four warriors, grouped together, moving together as a unit, fearlessly, that awakens some very primal memory within us all, regardless of how they’re shown. It doesn’t work with three, it doesn’t work with five (which just adds a guy), it doesn’t even work with a whole army of mighty warriors, and you’d think that would be a lot more inspirational than just four.

Every time we see this image we see it as something powerful, as something noble and righteous, and it inspires within us hope. Even in Angel, when it’s villainous vampires that are feeding, it still inspires these emotions.

There are four archangels at the very top. There are always four. Upon every world, in every dimension, from the highest planes down to the lowest each has four archangels on the very top. In our world they are Micheal, Gabreal, Raphael, and Uriel. On other worlds they have other angels with other names. But there are always four. Together, as four, they compromise what is supposed to be the most powerful being of their world. Together, at least in theory, there should be nothing stronger than they are. They are warriors and guardians who know not of fear. They typically act separately. But when called upon, all four at once, they are something strong and powerful, something that should be able to defeat even the most powerful of threats.

Each of us has this memory buried within us. This idea. Most will never quite grasp it, never quite get it, never know what exactly it means. But when we see a similar image, four warriors, together, fearless, we’re reminded of the power and the hope they bring.


Sphinxes

March 22, 2009

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Sphinxes, sometimes given a proper name as a Phix, are horrid and powerful creatures. Similar creatures appear in many mythologies through out Europe, the Middle-East, and Asia, although it was named by the Greeks, whose myth seems a proper depiction, although the thing is not a god nor is it a single being, but like fae and dragons and djinn is a type. The lion headed depictions of the Egyptians may not have been depictions of the Sphinx at all, but rather depictions of their ruling class being associative with Sehkmet.

A Sphinx would often times be used as a guardian. The creatures are naturally guardians, tend to stay in one place, and are strong enough to make good guardians of things, especially tombs and other places where folks and animals don’t normally go. They also may be associative with power in the Greek magickal traditions. Mastery of a Sphinx, as per the feat of Oedipus, would be something only a very powerful magician would be capable of, and as such Sphinxes could be seen as guardians of the sacred mysteries, only allowing access to those of such great power as to tame them.

For the most part, Sphinxes are no longer allowed into this world. Fortunately the current laws and rules surrounding this plane of existence bar them from coming here. They can’t even reach the realm of dreams, for the most part, without great effort on their part, and it’s very difficult for them to sustain a presence there for long.

Sphinxes come from the depths of the hell planes. They are a lower realm equivalent to a realm guardian, essentially a type of angel to that place, however they would exceed even an archangel’s power, at least in their realm of origin, and would be somewhat equivelent to the angelic energy bodies of the heavenly planes.

I would assume that, when encountered in higher planes, a good deal of their energy and power is devoted to just sustaining their presence, and within their own realm of origin they would be far more powerful, although it is also possible that the ones able to still reach higher realms like the dreaming are also the more powerful of their ilk, and that most in their natural realm of origin are much weaker (I’ve never seen one in its realm of origin, and I don’t think I want to either).

A Sphinx constantly masturbates, sort of. It doesn’t really play with itself, it just sort of orgasms and ejaculates again and again on a constant (granted I’ve only seen males, females, if they exist, may be a bit different). When it orgasms, very strong sexually predatory energy flows out of it and into the nearby area in waves. Anything that is not able to quickly produce a very strong psychic shield (which even among practitioners, many can’t) will be raped by it. And the rape will happen repeatedly until the creature becomes so worn out from it that it kills them. Small creatures tend to last seconds. Larger creatures like cats and dogs may get a minute or two, a human maybe a few minutes. Even with a strong shield the energy is so intense, and on a constant, that it will tear down the shield very quickly.

This masturbation is not an attack, it lacks any direction or purpose, it is just a side-effect of the Sphinx existing in a place. It only represents a fraction of the Sphinxes power. The Sphinx overflows with power, it drips off it, so much so it can be clearly seen as a beacon amidst it’s sexual waves, and is many times stronger than it’s masturbation, even when the Sphinx is calm and at ease.

The energy of the Sphinx is such that most will find it offensive and gross, and also completely horrifying. Not just the nature of it’s evil, but also the power and intensity behind it. Among angelics and those with an angelic connection it will most likely awaken a primal need to combat and expel it, although most angelics even will approach such a beast with caution.

The Sphinx originates in the Qlippothic version of the middle triad, and as such is a further physical complication from this plane, and so he has a physicality that is evolved beyond what is typically allowed into this world. He also has a realm guardian status, so we can presume that, like the realm guardians of this world, he may be atypical of his plane of existence in his manifestation of physicality and the laws that apply to him.

Also, like any realm guardian, he guards, ferociously and viciously, and is a natural warrior. I’m not sure the actual intelligence of such a beast, as I’ve never attempted to talk to one. Their energy does seem very violent and animalistic, but this is not rare among realm guardian types. It would be odd, even among a realm as low as his, for something to be of such vast power and lack intelligence.


Magick Au Natural (or Skyclad), A Primer

March 16, 2009

What is Skyclad Magick

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Skyclad Magick is any working which is done nude (in other words clad only by the sky, although the term also encompasses indoor workings, which semantically should be called tracklightclad), whether these workings are done as a group or as solitary workings.

Skyclad also encompasses several different definitions. Some define Skyclad, most basically, as being without any kind of clothing. Others define it as also being without make-up, perfumes, deodorant, or shampoo. And others include those clothed in body paint as being skyclad.

The History of Skycladskyclad

It’d be nice if there was a long and revered history of ritual nudity to point to in arguing for skyclad practices, but none really exists. Although we see nudity practiced in some obscure forms of Eastern religions, we don’t see it in any of the ones that have had a major influence on the west. In the western world we can suppose that there has, in the past, been ritual nudity. Humans were most likely practicing some sort of ritual prior to the invention of clothing. We do know some of the Greeks and Romans were rather decadent and liked there orgies, and that there were probably some spiritual undertones in some of there orgy havings. But whatever was done then is largely lost, and we don’t see any clear lineage from those earlier rituals (which were small and minority rituals) up to the modern day.

Until the middle of the 20th century, Western occultism was practiced clothed. There is no evidence that traditional witches ever practiced in the nude. Ceremonial magicians have always practiced clothed. Even Allister Crowley, known for combining his sexual wants with his ritual practices, never managed to get into nude rituals, more than likely because he was too busy trying to convince male friends to have anal intercourse with him for reasons that meant he was still entirely heterosexual. There are some spells in the old grimoires that were meant to make groups of women or groups of people dance around in the nude, but that was not a part of the ritual, but rather the end result of it, after which the practitioner could then watch them dancing in the nude.

Skyclad magick and ritual nudity was pretty much spearheaded by Gerald Gardener, the founder of Wicca. The theological basis for Gardener’s skyclad rituals were based in negative Christian folklore about witches which supposed them to do secret nude rituals, and also in a mistranslation of a line in the Aradia of the Witches. It should be noted though that Gardener had a host of sexual fetishes, and that he used his spiritual position as a founder of a religion in order to recruit willing partners to participate in his fantasies which also included female domination and sado-machosism, and that he would grasp at spiritual straws to justify these acts.

After Gardener had come along, a lot of other folks started incorporating skyclad rituals into their own religions. Skyclad rituals meshed very well with the hippie movement that eventually invaded and took over most of the neopagan religions and also liked running around naked.

In recent years skyclad practices have largely fallen out of vogue. Even many Gardnerian Wiccans, who claim to practice the original form of Wicca created by Gardener, don’t practice skyclad, and they don’t follow a lot of Gardener’s more sexualized practices either. Most of the rituals that were originally meant to be done in the nude are now done clothed.

The Magick of Equality: Does Nudity Make Us Equals

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A point generally brought up by pro-skyclad Wiccans is that nudity makes us equals. We no longer have the class system attached to us. We aren’t separated between those who can afford nice clothes and those who can’t. This lack of separation would also happen if we replaced naked with modest robes.

Unfortunately beyond flashy clothes, skyclad doesn’t do much to make us equals. Some people are still pretty, and some are fat, and no amount of clothing, or lack thereof, is going to help the situation. Some of us are going to be more powerful than others. The regular religious hierarchies that exist tend to exist while naked the same as when clothed.

Cloth & Color: A Minor Variable Sidestepped

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It should be noted that the most magickal possessions most people possess (other than their bed), are their clothes. Experienced practitioners are more likely than most to have an object which puts their clothes to shame, but at the same time their clothes are going to be even more magickal than what is typical among non-practitioners. Our emotion and our energy, through out the day, taints our clothes. Washing our clothes helps, although it doesn’t nearly do enough insofar as cleansing them. The longer the clothes have been worn, the more powerful they may be. And our clothes, in turn, may taint or otherwise affect both ourselves or the ritual. When we enter a ritual clothed, we’re never entering a ritual clean. Many books recommend not only preritual baths and cleansings, but also special clean garments only adorned during ritual for this very reason.

Secondly, color is another variable. Some practitioners discard color altogether because it is not as strong a symbolism as some would like. Color does however have an, albeit minor, effect on magick workings. Some books and practitioners swear by being draped in the proper colors for the spell at hand.

However clothing and color are both minor variables in determining the success and power of ones magick. Neither is so great a factor that it can’t be overcome, or can only be over come with great effort. There are of course exceptions. Sometimes an article of clothing can become so energized that it will have a very serious effect on the ritual. However this problem can be solved simply by wearing something else.

Still, it should be noted that these things can affect ritual, and that by practicing skyclad these variables no longer need to be considered.

Simplicity, Primality, Transformation, and Butt-Nakedness

Nakedness is our most natural state of dress. It’s how we come into this world. It’s how we survived as a species prior to the advent of clothing. Our clothing ads another layer to ourselves, another level of complexity. Typically within magick and ritual one moves towards simplicity rather than complexity, one tries to remove as many layers from the problem as possible. Simplicity is seen as the better and more powerful state, the natural state of things within the universe, and it’s easiest to work ones will when that will is worked in the natural directions of the universe, not against it.

Naked, being both our natural state and primary state, allows us to become more primal in our being. For some being naked means tapping into a more primary, animalistic state. For others it is just being more free, less inhibited, and a closer approximation to their true self. In any case, in this state a practitioner’s energy is more raw, less encumbered and tainted, and the practitioner experiences a greater degree of focus and their will and desires are better focused, all of this making spellwork easier and more successful.

Finally some practitioners may use nudity as a trigger to transform them from one state to another. To move from their normal selves to their more magickal selves. To help them cast away, temporarily, their anchors and ties into the real and solid world and move into a less solid more magickal state where more things are possible. Conditioned properly, a practitioner can see a dramatic transformation between a clothed and naked state, and can amass this power with less work than what would typically be required. However one should be careful utilizing this method. There are definite drawbacks to not being able to tap most of your power unless you’re naked.

Intimacy, Nudity, and Bonding

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Most people see nudity as an intimate act. For most of us, the first people of an opposite gender who saw us naked after puberty started was a person who we engaged in some intimate carnal act with. For most of us, most of the people of the opposite gender who see us naked are people we are intimately involved with. For a lot of people, nudity is directly tied to sex. For a lot of people, casual and non-utilitarian nudity is only something that occurs between two people who are sexually involved with each other.

The point being, for a large part nudity and intimacy are one in the same. Therefor when a ritual is performed skyclad there is an added degree of intimacy between the participants, even if they don’t know each other very well. With a regular group, this intimacy helps with group bonding. But even with strangers who will never meet again, nudity will help them connect together, become one, and work the ritual as a single whole rather than a group of individuals. The individual members will also find it easier to connect to one and another, and psychic links will more easily form between them, once again making it easier for the individuals to work as a group.

Symbolism of Nudity and Opening the 3rd Eye

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When we’re naked, we’re exposed. We’ve completely opened ourselves up and exposed ourselves to everything in the nearby area. This is a literal truth on the physical level. But is also symbolic of opening ourselves up and exposing ourselves emotionally (thus intimacy, as explained above), and also opening ourselves up spiritually. Being naked is symbolic of letting down a shield, and both exposing ourselves and opening ourselves up to our surrounding environment. Especially when the symbolism of the event is acknowledged, this will make it easier for the practitioner to experience the metaphysical. For lack of a better way to describe it, it will make them more psychic and more empathic.

Sacred Nudity and Reverence

Most of us, when we present ourselves to a god, we want to present ourselves in an acceptable way. The situation may not always allow this. We might need to contact a deity right now, and we can’t wait to take a shower or dress ourselves properly. The gods understand this. But a lot for the time we do have time. And then there’s the question of how should we present ourselves. Likewise even when we don’t use a god, when we do magick most of us would like to present ourselves in a way that is becoming of the sacredness of the event.

If we have sacred clothes, like ceremonial robes, this might do. If not, we’d usually lean towards nice, clean clothes. What nice means though would be very subjective. Some might define that as expensive suits and dresses. Others as unfaded jeans and a favorite t-shirt. Some will argue that you should always address the gods in Renfair costumes, regardless of the fact that almost every god predates the renaissance style of dress, the style was only in vogue in certain regions of Western Europe and is thus regionally inappropriate for most gods, and that Renfair costumes typically lack accuracy.

Nudity is, however, always appropriate for presentation to a deity or a sacred event. Nudity is a sacred state of being. As already mentioned it’s how we come into this world. When we disrobe we’re also gracing those around us with the beauty of our physical form. We are making a sacrifice of our modesty so that others may take pleasure in our natural form. We are showing reverence to and making a gift to those around us, be they other humans, entities, or gods. When we are naked, we’re always in a sacred state. The sacredness of that state is only lost when we attempt to hide or cover ourselves, or when we try to stop or otherwise punish others for looking at us or particular body parts, staring at us, or having impure thoughts about us. When we disrobe and present ourselves as such it is a sacred gift given onto the recipient, to be used as they please and not to be taken back.

Nudity and Sexual Energy

Nudity can be utilized within ritual in order to raise sexual energy. When you get a bunch of people together, running around naked, they start getting horny, and before long you get a bunch of sexual energy that can be used and manipulated in the spellwork. For best results you want as many pretty people, both men and women, in the group as possible. Pretty people turn other people on. Ugly people may turn other people on, but not as much. Youth is also good, young people tend to have much stronger sex drives and more sexually repressed energy. You may also have much better results if participants agree to refrain from sexual acts or masturbation for a period preceding the ritual. Three days is a good amount of time. Likewise you’ll get better results if flirting and some petting is allowed during the time of the ritual, of course you don’t want anyone having orgasms during the ritual, since that would be counterproductive, you just want them getting about as close as you can get them.

In a setting like this, energy can easily be raised, even among those who are not very good at energy manipulation, by normally mundane acts like dancing around each other and various games and activities that involve touching and caressing each other.

Orgies

Generally, if you want to raise sexual energy, don’t have sex. There is a point within an orgasm when the energy will hit peak and will be at its strongest for the individual. This only lasts for a moment though, and grasping and manipulating this energy is a difficult feat. It can be done, but it is typically beyond the ability of most practitioners and beyond the scope of most rituals. But there are other things that can be done with ritual orgies, everything from connecting the group as one to amassing the energies to some ends to simply reveling in a state of primal and uncompromising sexual ecstasy and desire. I do think that this is, however, far to vast an area to go into detail in the scope of this essay.

Being Naked — Just Because

Of course there is something to be said for being naked just because. It is a sacred state of being, and so being naked is sacred. It can be its own ends, rather than a means to something else. It can be a spiritual experience in and of itself. Or possibly just something one enjoys doing. To be exposed, open, uninhibited, intimate, free, primal, and sacred all at once.