Embracing the darkness

Wow, two blogs in a row! I am quite pleased with myself. Although I must be honest and admit that my algorithm (yes, the same one as yesterday) is still running on my desktop, forcing me to use my energy elsewhere while waiting for my poor computer to sort through this giant dataset.

My first dabbling in intentional magic (I was having visions and interactions – wanted or not – with spirits before this thanks to my witchy genes) came when I moved back to my country of birth after having lived years in a foreign country, attending international school. Having been, if I may say so myself, quite popular in the international school, I thought that I would enjoy the same welcoming in my hometown. I was terribly wrong – to these students, I was a spoiled, entitled brat with a stuck up nose and a funny accent. After they grew tired of asking me questions about “foreigners”, their customs and language, and having determined that I am just a big show off and there is in fact, nothing special about me, I was mercilessly bullied. Three years of bullying, in fact. In my “home” country, there is a term describing a student who is bullied by the entire class, and a separate term describing a student who is bullied by the entire school. I was the former, and my best friend was the latter, so you can imagine the kind of humiliation and painfully disfiguring abuse we went through on a daily basis. My mother, well meaning but very unwell, swung from one day, feeling motivated to help me and inviting my bullies over to try to make good with them, to making fun of me and humiliating me for being friendless, which of course, makes me “worthless”.

In this darkness, and being inspired the Harry Potter series sweeping across the country at this time, I decided to conjure up a spell of my own. I studied runes, talismans, goddesses, elements, and sigils. Looking back, I was embarrassingly green, barely understanding the basics of the aforementioned topics. Maybe it was Karma, or maybe my spell did work, but magickally, one day, my bully became the bullied. She was a terror no more, and I was happy to be able to to hang out with my friend at school without being afraid of being sworn at or otherwise humiliated. To be completely honest, this didn’t last long, as it didn’t take long for another bully to make my life a living hell again. Looking back at my life, my magick was always the strongest in my times of darkness, and for the longest time, I resented this. There were exceptions to this, of course. I have been fortunate to have money mysteriously flow in during times of desperation, for things that seemed impossible to just “work itself out”, for people who were obstacles to somehow disappear from my life, etc. It did bother me, however, that when I had dark thoughts about someone, willingly or not, there was a high chance that something bad would happen to this person.

After becoming an adult, I declared that I will only use my magick and intentions for “good” and reject/ suppress all my negative thoughts, cleansing and purifying them with whatever method was trendy at the time. Smoke, essential oils, singing bowls, crystals, tuning fork – name it, I’ve tried them all. It is only recently, emerging from the tribulations bestowed on me during my residency, that I have begun to feel the darkness again, rising from the depths within me. One of the reasons why I switched from an entirely research-based career to medicine was that I was being consumed by this darkness – the cut throat competitiveness and general toxic personalities that research unfortunately tend to attract grew so much anger inside of me that I felt like I was losing myself in it. I thought dedicating myself to medicine, to a more stable career where the goal is to care for others, where one does not have to step on someone else (supposedly) to make an earning, would help me abandon this darkness all together. However, life has its surprises. After 3 distinct, rather catastrophic events (without exaggeration) that happened in the earlier stages of my residency, I have, yet again, started feeling the darkness consume me. At the beginning, I tried to run from it – I meditated, cleansed, and had lavender running on my diffuser 24/7. I tried reminding myself that darkness can only bring about more darkness, that I must stick to the way of the “light”.

The point of this blog is to tell myself, and you, that I have chosen to take an entirely different path. I have realized, from reflecting on my life, that my magick is in fact, the strongest in the darkest times of my life. As witches, some of us are called to the light, some to the dark, some both, and some to absolute neutrality. I have come to accept and embrace that I have been called to the dark, and that there is no escaping it. My life, as thankful for it as I am, has been, to use the words of a psychiatrist that I saw for a single consult, “mostly traumatic”. In this life that I have been given, I have learned to live and even thrive in this darkness and to reject it would be to reject my entire being. The four goddesses that I look for guidance is a good representation of this. Hekate – goddess of crossroads and guide to those heading to the underworld. Persephone – a young maiden and goddess of spring taken by Hades to the underworld by force. At the beginning, she is a victim, but she emerges from it victorious by accepting her situation, embracing the dark and emerging as the goddess of hell as an equal to Hades. Psyche – a naive young woman emerging as a goddess of the mind (psyche – psychology, see the link?) and metamorphosis after going through literal and figural hell and arising from the ashes. Isis – goddess of magick and medicine going through the grief of having her husband cruelly murdered and dismembered, but using this grief to amplify her magick and power to restore her husband to become the rightful ruler of the underworld alongside Osiris. See a theme here?

Trauma work in psychiatry has two steps – first is to learn the coping skills to manage the devastating effects trauma has on one’s mind. Coping skills in stage one includes – wait for it – grounding, mindfulness, and drawing boundaries. Sounds familiar? Yes, these are the basic skills that any good witch book will have as one of the first steps of becoming a witch. Second part of trauma therapy is actually revisiting the trauma and learning to process and even harness positive changes from it ONCE one has obtained the basic skills to be able to hold and maneuver the trauma without completely succumbing to it. I am lucky that by practicing witchcraft, I have learned how to ground myself by extending my roots into mother Gaia, and how to co-create my reality instead of being a victim to circumstance. As the author of “Initiated” has wisely put, I need to “stop looking to escape the underworld”. My next challenge is to use these skills to harness the darkness for my highest good without letting it take control over me. One of the elemental forces, fire, stands for transformation and producing light from darkness. I started the practice of harnessing my darkness by asking the element of fire to turn the darkness rising from inside of me into a bright flame, which I then used to invoke the three fold law that I mentioned in my last blog. I am hoping that this becomes a precursor to my journey in embracing and ruling the darkness instead of running away from it.

Wish me luck!

Using Magick to stay sane

First post! I always dreamed of starting a blog but never had the courage to put my words out in public. At the same time, I always felt like I have a lot to say and share. Alas, being mortifyingly socially anxious and introverted, I knew that I would never get a chance to do this in “real life”. So here goes.

I am in the midst of a “vacation”, which in my field in the stage that I am in, means that I get to stay home instead of at the hospital while pounding away at yet another research project. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE research – it is one of the few things I truly believe I can’t live without. This project is special though – I am forced to step away from the computer as this algorithm that I have running on my poor, old, and very abused computer is running now for 2 days with no signs of finishing anytime soon. Because of this, perhaps for the first time in years, I have been forced to step away from research and medicine to read something other than the two aforementioned topics.

Thanks to this fortunate/ unfortunate circumstance, I am now half way into a biography called “Initiated” written by Amanda Yates Garcia, a hereditary witch. The author writes of living in a world where taking part in LSD/ marijuana-driven house parties and large orgies were quite ordinary. As a reader, especially in medicine and science, it is difficult to NOT question if the spiritual experiences she had at the time were not in fact products of intoxication or withdrawal. Having said that, I come from a long line of witches and oracles, so I know that the world is so much more vast and richer than science can explain. Hallucinogens have been used since the dawn of time to invoke spiritual experiences, and it is difficult to explain how much of their visions were the product of rapid alterations in brain chemistry induced by these substances, and how much of it was a product of communication with realms beyond our own. I ask this because I have had two difficult interpersonal experiences lately – with two different supervisors, who, I am sad to say, have truly gone out of their way to bully me, a lowly learner. It is hard to explain why – It could be because I come from a science background and have progressed further in this area than they have despite being more junior in medicine, and/or because I outwardly rejected their abandonment of efficiency over “obtaining a deeper understanding of patient experience”. Mind you, I agree that there is certainly a place and a time where such endeavor is desirable and productive. However, I find it hard to agree with this sentiment when I know that there is a mountain of patients who would benefit from urgent care who are not receiving it simply because each physician is only seeing 6 patients a day in the particular institution that this occurred. I was quite literally told that I could do whatever what I want once I become staff, but until then, continuing as I am now will “get you flagged”. In an environment where co-learning is encouraged, and this was in fact, a matter of difference in philosophy and not competence, I was surprised that this resulted in a negative evaluation. The manner the evaluation occurred, was also quite baffling to me – this supervisor contacted my evaluating supervisor to ask her to give me a poor evaluation (despite my evaluating supervisor having already given me her feedback that she would give me a good evaluation).

As a practicing witch, I have a choice in how I want to interpret this situation. Do I take the road of the aforementioned author, and believe that this woman has been possessed by evil energies and spirits, and hence cleanse, forgive and move on? Would choosing to see the world with this magickal lens (fortunately or unfortunately without the help of psychedelics) take some sting out of the “evils” of the world? Do I accept that some people in this world are truly “nasty”, and begrudgingly hope for a better supervisor next time? Do I take the most realistic approach, and accept that the way to get through this period of training is to suppress my own philosophies and values and follow whatever the supervisor says is right, so that I don’t have to be “flagged”? Accept that my voice is never appreciated, and that some educators become educators so that they can feel that their way is the “right way”? Reflecting on the last point, I remembered some nurses commenting that this staff had been very anxious as a trainee, which impaired her ability to function quickly due to her need to know every detail before proceeding. Perhaps this feedback was given to her either directly or indirectly, and she became an educator to convince herself that her way was in fact, the right way, and others were wrong all along. Maybe this is why when she saw that I rejected her approach, it was so triggering for her.

In either case, I took the middle approach. After much reflecting and suffering over this incident, I cast a spell to invoke the three fold law – that she will receive three fold what she had done to me. I am a strong believer in Karma. Growing up, the many bullies in my life always received the poison they shared. When I spread poison, then I received it back as well. So, in invoking this spell, I chose to leave it up to the Universe and let it solve itself out. If she had truly meant ill will, well, she will receive it three fold. If her intent was truly, to educate, then she will receive that three fold as well. I will leave the wiser spirits of the Universe decide which one it was. My balcony gnome, who I recently became acquainted with, was watching me approvingly as I meditated on this spell, so I would like to think that it was the right way to go. I also decided to be a pragmatic and accept that to be a successful trainee in my field, I must become a master mime and a puppet, and accept that some educators enter the field for self-gratification, and therefore to be liked by them, I must, at all cost, make them feel good about themselves as much as I can. That means that I certainly DO NOT get to disagree with their philosophies in patient care (which would make me a bad learner).

I hope that I don’t lose who I am as a person at the end of this – it is one of my greatest fears. Did my three fold law spell take the sting out of having to accept this sad reality? Of course it did – it gave me back some sense of control. Magick, real or not, helps us believe that we can shape our own reality. It helps me be a more responsible and yes, less bitter person, which I think ultimately has a positive effect on my life as well as those around me. Especially being in this stage in my training where most of my sense of control over my beliefs, time, and basic rights (like sleeping and going to the washroom) have been stripped away from me, Magick keeps me sane – it keeps me human.