Story time again, happy readers: it’s time for another episode of Great Moments in Holy Fuck I Was A Dumbass Once Upon A Time. I tell this story now because it’s almost come up in quite a few conversations over the last months, and because I don’t often see discussions on the internet (might just be looking in the wrong places) of how magical practice can directly impact your health.
When I was in high school, and for a while after, I liked to use magic to get high. I hadn’t really experimented with serious rites yet, mostly just casting circles and the push-and-pull of auras and pure-thought-visualization magics. So I would get high by drawing in all the power I could, doing breathing exercises until I was dizzy, then put on a talisman to keep me steady* and go out rolling.
Then I lost touch with the people I was practicing with on a regular basis, and I got to where the only times I did any magic were when I was warding my house, helping someone else with theirs, or celebrating the Sabbats with the KU Cauldron. I started attending the annual Heartland Pagan Festival – and oh, sweet gods, was that a high. In a period of a couple months, I went from a regular, intense practice, to a feast-and-famine cycle of about four to eight weeks.
Somewhere along the way, I blew a fuse.
From about the time I was twenty – not long after my friends disappeared and I moved out of my parent’s’ house – I started getting migraine headaches. For those of you who’ve never had migraines – and especially you bastards who don’t quite believe they’re real – imagine overdosing on caffeine and then suddenly and inexplicably suffering the worst red-wine-tannins-and-cheep-gin-hangover of your life. The light hurts not just your eyes, but your skin. Noises and smells hurt your brain. The only thing that helps at all is lying down somewhere dark and quiet.
After a while I noticed that the migraines came about every two to three weeks on average – sometimes more – usually right after I did a lot of magic, or after I’d gone too long without.
I started up a semi-regular meditation practice, and laid off some of the big solo ritual, but the net result of that correlation was to slowly stopped practicing magic altogether. I was about twenty-three. The headaches went away. The being crazy got worse. I spent about a year and a half in my basement, writing a lot and meditating a little, and trying to get my head screwed on straight. I stopped seeing auras. I missed a Heartland Pagan Festival in favor of Laid Back Labor Day. I looked back through my journals and the things I remembered seeing and doing … and I started wondering if I were really crazy. As in, sending the nice young men in their clean white coats crazy. I realized I hadn’t actually practiced any magic in a year or more. I was … empty. Hollowed out.
Then I went back to Heartland. I took a great big breath of the life and power of that sacred land. I drank deep of the power and beauty of the rituals. (I might have even gotten laid.) I rediscovered what I was missing.
I talked to D it a few months later. I remember still-being awestruck by the experience – telling her how I’d been starting to think I’d imagined every magical experience I had before that. Although I didn’t connect the two events at the time – and it would be more than two years before I actually left – I think it was within the next six or nine months of those events that I started to feel the urge to leave Lawrence – a steady restlessness, and certainty that it was time to move to a new stage.
The migraines have never returned. My practice has slowly escalated since that nadir, but I have never felt as strong – magically speaking – as I did before I started getting the migraines. Even now, with a daily ritual practice and a steady observance of both the Esbats and Sabbats … I think I may actually have diminished myself by abusing my talents back in the day.
*In this instance, a hematite ring which – unlike a lump of hematite, which would have grounded me out fast and hard – kept me at a steady level, draining off very slowly.