Trombone and the Art of Energy Work Pt. 2

Focused on the sounds around me, I count the silence. One, two, three, four. Two, two, three, four… Focused on the symbols on the page, I quickly fill my lungs like a bellows, raise the comforting brass weight of the instrument to my lips and with a steady controlled breath, I release a power which vibrates the air, perfectly finding its niche within the music of my fellows around me.

After a satisfying practice, I joke around with my friends. My laugh is just a little too loud as my oxygen soaked brain revels in the afterglow.

I sort of miss those days. I don’t really miss the part where I dragged myself around a football field dressed in a ridiculous wool suit in weather that was always too hot or too cold. My band director once told me that a trombone is potentially the loudest instrument in the band. One trombone could overbalance the entire thing. I wasn’t sure if I should take that as a compliment or a warning, but it made me grin just a little bit. One practice, he told me that I was playing like I was possessed. I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment either, but I decided to take it as one. It was a far cry from the timid little mouse who started playing back in fifth grade.

As I mentioned last time, the subject of today’s post is BWAAAAAAAA!!!!! Also known as blasting.

It’s probably no surprise that I’ve hung around the kinds of places on the internet where occasionally someone would ask questions about defending themselves from hostile or mischievous entities. The standard advice tends to run along things like salt or smudging or casting circles. I usually end by saying that I tend to skip over those things and just blast the critter if it doesn’t back off when told.

Usually, the people who have to ask questions like that also have no idea what blasting is. It also made me realize that I couldn’t really think of a good way to explain it to them. I just sort of do it. I asked among my friends who know what blasting is, and they also seemed unsure about how to put it into words. How do you yell at someone? You just sort of open your mouth and do it. It’s instinctive. Even babies know how to yell. How would I explain this to someone who doesn’t appear to have the instinct?

Playing the trombone seemed like one of the closest real world analogies I could come up with. Of course, you don’t always blast on a trombone. It wouldn’t be music if you did. The same might be said about energy work. There are times when a subtle steady tone, or a delicate work of precision is more appropriate. But just as a baby’s cries help develop lung strength to prepare it for speech and singing later, an understanding of how to blast can help you tone it down and learn control later.

The first step in blasting on a brass instrument is the breath. First, you must know how to breathe. Breath is what powers the sound. Everybody knows how to breathe. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be alive. All the same, the majority of people do it wrong. They think they breathe with their chest and shoulders. A solid deep breath originates lower. The belly and lower ribs should expand while the chest remains relaxed. What does this mean for power?

Power doesn’t come from the intellect. Your skull can’t breathe. It doesn’t come from the heart region either. You can take a breath into your chest, but it won’t be as strong and you will run out of air quickly. Emotions may seem very strong at first, but they are fleeting. Real power comes from the gut, from your center of being. If you can’t find your center, then you’re pretty much screwed. This is why “know thyself” is of such great importance in magic, in anything, really. If the power comes from your center, then it’s much easier to get your heart and head to line up and focus. Everything you have will be in agreement on the subject. When your center gets interested in something, basic survival instinct comes to mind, the energy can seem to come out of nowhere.

The second step is pressurization. When playing a brass instrument, the lips and tongue contain and direct the breath, allowing a controlled amount of air to be released over time. If you want to try it, press your lips together and make a raspberry or farting sound. Brass players do that all the time. It sounds much better when it comes out the other end of the horn. The air inside the body becomes pressurized. With greater pressure, the note can have a greater potential volume and/or a higher pitch. Volume does shorten duration, however. It’s easy to have a short loud note, or a long soft note. If you want a long, loud note, you need to develop greater lung capacity.

This is the part where you have to start being conscious of side-effects. Developing greater lung capacity can sometimes mean actually stretching lung tissue. It’s not a good idea do too much of that. Raising air pressure also raises other kinds of pressure in the body as well. I’ve been told that in ancient Greece, Olympic trumpet playing contests sometimes ended in fatalities when blood vessels burst.(citation needed) The most common side effect for practicing a brass instrument is swollen lips. Practice can help condition the muscles there, but you can’t just play all day. Side note: Brass players make great kissers!

How does this apply to energy work? If you’re channeling energy, you might be able to “breathe” indefinitely. If you want to do that with a brass instrument, learn cyclic breathing. That’s how didgeridoo players keep going seemingly forever. Even if the energy is not coming from your personal store, you can still run into side effects. You’re still the one who has to direct and form the outgoing energy. Pressure can build up. Too much pressure can cause damage to your own energy systems. I’ve done that. Believe me, it’s not fun. The sustained focus can also wear you out and make you get sloppy. That’s why you shouldn’t play at 100%. Back off to about 70%, unless it’s a dire emergency. Another note is that repeated damage builds up over time. It may seem minor now, but it won’t feel that way later.

Finally, there is tone. It’s much harder to get a good tone when you’re blasting. If you play too loud, there’s a little destabilization that sets in because you’re pushing your limits. If you back off slightly, you can get a more focused result.

That’s a lot of theory behind something that takes maybe a second to do. You basically gather energy and release it in force. Most people visualize the energy as a light or as fire, but you don’t have to. You can blast with wind or sand if that suits you better. Directing it out of the hand superhero style seems the most popular, but it’s not the only way to do it. If you’re not sure about the intentions of an unseen entity, you should give it a warning first. Just because something seems strange doesn’t automatically mean it’s a threat. A slow, steady release of energy can also be used to cleanse or bless an area.

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Trombone and the Art of Energy Work Pt.1

My first real lessons in energy work came from band class. Some of it was technical, in the case of music theory, and some of it was experiential, in the act of supporting and playing the notes. I played the trombone.

People like to talk about frequency, vibration and wavelength when it comes to magical energies. I’m not always sure that they have a firm grasp on what these subjects mean. Why is a high frequency always preferable to a low one? High frequencies sometimes hurt my ears, and low frequencies can have enough power to rattle my windows. They’re not good or bad. Music sounds better when there’s a balanced mix.

Sound waves that are orderly tend to sound better than those that are chaotic. The dissonant background music for the original Star Trek series was intended to increase the dramatic tension, but I sure wouldn’t want to listen to it by itself. It’s an acquired taste that I don’t really want to acquire. Harmonic frequencies enhance each other’s patterns. Dissonant ones disrupt the information and introduce chaos. There’s also that odd case where two perfectly tuned, but opposite sounds can effectively cancel each other out, resulting in silence. This is how noise cancelling headphones work. They sense the incoming noise and create the opposing sound. You could also have fun with resonant frequencies, opera singers, and wine glasses. For an added bonus, look up chladni plates on the web!

In short, some energies harmonize well together, and some energies clash. A person is more likely to work with a deity whose energy is harmonious with their own. A pantheon is a collection of deities whose energies have been tuned as a set. That doesn’t mean that deities from other pantheons can’t work together, you can still find harmonies across pantheons. I’m just saying that the chances for harmonic combinations increases among those who have worked together longer. They’re sort of playing in the same musical key.

Some people, like my Dad, have amazing pitch. They can immediately tell what is in tune and what isn’t, and they can even name the notes they hear. Other people, like my Mom, can appreciate the effects of music, but are completely lost when it comes to finding the right pitch. My father studied music at University of Indiana. My mother couldn’t even sing lullabies to her children without having us ask her to please stop. My father played the tuba. My mother played the glockenspiel (think of a smaller marching version of the xylophone) where tuning wasn’t an issue.

What I’m saying is that not everyone has the talent for fine tuning energetic frequencies on the fly. That doesn’t mean that they have to give up, just that they need help getting the notes right. I believe that’s what all those tables of magical correspondences are for. Some people have the natural instinct, and some have to do things the hard and technical way. Even if you do have the instinct, it doesn’t hurt to round out your education by learning the technical side because it can refine your skill and teach you something you hadn’t already thought of. Just don’t get so bogged down in technicality that you forget how to sing.

I will discuss the art of going BWWWAAAAAAAAAA in the next section.

Patterns in Magic

This is my post on How Magic Works. Just my opinion, of course.

Watch this video. I would just point to the video and rest my case, but that’s probably not enough for most people. I will make more words afterward. (Keyword: “Chladni plate,” just in case the video disappears at some point.)

A pure musical tone creates wave patterns, which draws random particles into a definite order. Change the tone, and you change the pattern. The tone must be pure. The plate must also be even, centered, and smooth. A stronger tone, or one that is sustained longer, creates a clearer image.

There are a number of people, happy to sell you their books, who will jump wholeheartedly behind that theory.

If only it were that easy! As I said up there, the purity of the tone is important. When was the last time you resonated your ka, or “sang” your intent, purely unhindered by conflicting emotions or ideas? It’s a really difficult thing to do! Ritual can help, if you’re a ritual kind of person. Meditational practice can help, if you’re a meditational kind of person. You can try borrowing the tone from a deity in prayer, if you can manage to make your ego step aside long enough for the god’s music to flow unhindered.

That’s only half of the challenge. The world does not sit on a flat metal plate. Sometimes you’re not trying to move sand, but boulders of irregular shape. The tone might be pure and loud, but variations in the environment can cause the pattern come out in unpredictable ways. Some tones also work better in a specific environment than others. This is the principle of resonance. A person might resonate really well with one deity, or tone, and really badly with another. A strong tone in the wrong place can even cause harm, as in the opera singer and the wine glass. Not so great to be the glass!

One more monkey wrench in the machine comes from the fact that you’re not the only one who is trying to sing your song. Wave patterns are being produced on all sides, at all times, like waves on the ocean. They might amplify each other in some places, and cancel each other in others. Life is messy. We don’t live in a vacuum.

If magic was easy, we’d all be rich and living in perfect health by now. On the other hand, if it was completely worthless, we wouldn’t keep doing it. Most of us have a tale about the time when it did work in some spectacular way.

Much of the advice you find in magical communities is oriented toward controlling one or more of these factors. Purity, power, resonance, environment, picking your battles, multiplying your effort with that of a group, even dampening excess noise or working in silence and isolation are important points to consider in improving your magical art.

Heka

The Kemetic Round Table Question of the half month is, “Heka: What is it? How can I work with it?”

Heka is the kemetic version of magic. It is based on speech and the written word. Having things written down was a special thing in ancient Egypt because only a few people actually knew how to write. If you wanted a written spell, you’d have to pay a professional to make or sell you one. The spells varied in subject from medical treatments, to love, protection, revenge, and spells for the dead to find their way to a happy and comfortable afterlife.

There’s probably not a whole lot I can add that won’t be repeated by other bloggers. There is the idea that words represent real things, on a deeper level than that which we take for granted. The Kemetic idea of Names is related to that idea. If you know someone’s Name you have power over them. I believe that is because then you have inside knowledge as to what motivates them, their strengths and their weaknesses. You have to reach behind the surface and “read between the lines” to find the hidden meaning of the words.

In the Kemetic Orthodoxy, each person who takes shemsu vows is given a name. Part of the vow is to explore the meaning of that name. Mine is no secret. It’s also the name of this blog. I’m not particularly worried about it being used against me. What you have up there is just a surface level translation, pretty much stripped of its original nuances. It’s meant to be a public name. I have other names that I don’t tell, and none of those are THE name. They are like satellites orbiting the center. They give clues, they get close, but the center remains hidden. It’s helpful for me to know them, because that gives me a way to know if I’m staying true to myself, or if I’m starting to drift. If something doesn’t seem right, I can check with my names to see if I am contradicting myself. (Note: I said I have other names. One does not have to become a shemsu in order to have a name. How do you find out your name? Pure dumb luck, mostly.) Knowing my names, even if they’re not the main one, helps me to gain power over myself. That’s some pretty good heka there since most of my problems can be traced back to that person who looks at me through the mirror.

In the practice of heka, the general idea is that you say the thing you want to occur. Writing it down also helps and can be considered magical in itself. After the Boston bombing I did a little bit of heka here. I won’t take credit for the excellent work done by so many others, but this one did have a successful outcome. In writing your own, your words need to be confident and authoritative. It helps if they align with existing archetypal patterns. Myths were often mentioned with the speaker adopting the role of one of the participants, even that of a god, so that the same pattern established in the myth would be established in their situation. It also helps if you can dive into the deeper and multiple meanings of the words. Ancient Egyptians were fond of puns, not just for humor value, but for the additional meanings supplied to the words. The scales in the example above can apply either to the scales of Ma’at in the duat, or to the scales of justice in court. I admit, I wasn’t that picky. As for the harshness of the spell, that’s actually pretty tame compared to some of the historical spells I’ve read. The ancients didn’t mess around in life or death situations.

El Paso

A view of the West side of El Paso from Mt. Franklin
This is my city, my place, both mundane and sacred.

I was born at the foot of the mountain. I’ve lived other places, but eventually I came back through a series of unintended coincidences. She wanted me to stay. She brought me gifts of rare feathers, semi-precious stones, and scents that I didn’t remember that I remembered. There was the sweet scent of rain moistening resinous desert plants, and the distinct spiciness of desert herbs powdered to dust and blown into the reddish iron rich crevices of lava rock. The final gift, of a like-minded and like-hearted army veteran convinced me to stay. Apparently, the City meant business.

I wasn’t all that happy about living in the desert. I used to swear to everyone that I’d go back to the Hillcountry with its junipers, live oaks, and bluebonnets. I do still miss that land, but this one needs me more. She is dry and dusty, not as flashy as her sisters to the north in New Mexico. She is the subject of a lot of bad talk. They say she’s dirty and you’ll find better opportunities if you leave. On the other hand, it would probably surprise people to know that she’s been ranked as the safest city above 500 thousand in the US. Just don’t visit her twin to the south. Juarez is improving, but, it still has a long way to go. Residents here remember taking the trolly across the border to go to the mercado, or to restaurants or night clubs. We don’t do that anymore, but that’s a whole different, very sad, story. (Don’t buy drugs kids. The life you ruin may not be your own.)

Most of my magical work is done on her behalf. It has been that way since two weeks prior to 9/11. I didn’t know what would happen. I “saw” a black rain falling, and I put up an umbrella, a shield, over the entire city. I was young and no one told me that I couldn’t do it. I’ve been keeping an eye on the place ever since with workings of protection and prosperity, sometimes trying to coax a few drops of rain out of the sky to bring some relief from the drought. I always wish I could do more.

I honor the local spirits of this place. I see the Thunderbird’s portrait on the side of the mountain from my front window. I talk to the Mountain. I know this place is filled with gods, spirits, saints and angels from all over the world, as the residents have brought them here. I like it that way. The otherside is full of life in this place.

I lived here for years before I became Kemetic. This land seems like a good place for it. In the old days, they understood the value of working civic magic too. I find it funny that I live in the Sun City next to the Great River. I know that water is life, and the river makes it possible. The irrigation canals the farmers use here are not so different from those in ancient Egypt. There is a cooperative system in place to make sure everyone gets their share. It’s not computerized. Someone must actually go out there and open and close the gates on the right days. But the reservoir to the north is low. The river won’t flow until June this year. My prayers are with the farmers.