Half a lifetime ago, when I was but a wee faun of a mage, I had a number of talents that bore little resemblance or relevance to the sort of power I wanted as a practitioner of magic. I had no access to whatever community elders there may have been, and the internet was not the deep well of knowledge it is today.(1) It was my first year of high school and, although I cracked my first book on astrology at the age of thirteen, I had been practicing magic for no more than nine months—probably just since the beginning of the summer—with a repertoire limited to a stripped-out version of the LBRP which I had found on a message board, and about the most simple elemental energy-work you can imagine. My chief occult interests at that time were circles of protection, the sort of aura sight seen in bad martial arts anime, and astral projection.
I was totally unprepared for the full panorama of what psychic senses really feel like. To this day, one of my very few crystal-clear memories of high school is of walking down the hall, looking at people and knowing things: “They’re really in love.” “They’re not, but they’re having sex.” “She’s cheating on him.” These thoughts, these knowings, were alien to me: I didn’t know the students in question, and I would not discover my taste for gossip for another five or six years. But I was absolutely certain of each and every thing that burst into my mind as I turned my gaze on each set of couples I passed on my way to English class. The knowing, the invasion of those unwitting people’s privacy, terrified me. I shoved the knowledge out of my head, and slammed the door closed behind it.
Over the course of the next two years, as I met more and more magical practitioners, several of them were the sort that identified as “empaths”. In particular, one of my close friends and mentors. The talent never seemed to bring him much pleasure, so at first I felt that I’d made the right call … but around the time I graduated high school, I started to wonder what I was missing.
Medeia had a friend—an off-and-on student and lover—that we hung out with some times. Hearing the above story, he offered to help me out. Unfortunately, as it turned out, he was less than helpful. His solution was brute force: we sat down and entered a trance; I let him into my head; he found the door, and kicked it in. It hurt, and I panicked, and tried to slam it shut. But the “door” was broken, now, and wouldn’t close all the way.
My practice was never very regular back in the day. It certainly wasn’t founded on banishing or meditation. If it had been, that shit might have just sorted itself out on its own, before I blew my circuit-breaker. Even after that dramatic event, my psychic senses have always been a little wonky. I have experienced “empathy” not as a knowledge of what others are feeling, but a direct, vicarious, and often unknowing and unwelcome experience of it: I walk into a room where someone’s in a bad mood, and suddenly so am I. Of course I always picked up unpleasant emotions first, and often exclusively. Living with Aradia, we frequently shared physical pains, and occasionally panic attacks. And you, my dear readers, may recall some complaints about the psychic toxicity of the mall.
Shielding is the answer, of course. It’s time for the next round of experiments to begin.
1 – These were the wild, early days of IRC and CompuServe. HTML was shiny and new. FTP was the preferred method of sharing files, and GOPHER was still relevant. The internet was so small that there were published books of internet addresses, much like a Yellow Pages, and people used them. I’ll stop now before I make anyone else feel even older than I already do typing out this footnote.