Wednesday, December 16, 2015

THIS Butterfly -- Smashing teacups for a better tomorrow

This is a followup to two different posts (which you may want to go take a look at if you haven't):
In Which Butterfly? I suggested that the most interesting use for divination was not to tell the future, but to identify what actions now will get you to the future you want (which butterfly do you startle to get the right hurricane, see?). The reading in this post is a first pass on that kind of thing (there is a more elaborate general reading in the works). In the second part of my Antifragile series, I mentioned a fourth option for dealing with fragility in your life -- smash it.


So many choices...

But first a clarification. In the risk management post, I talked about four options for dealing with risks: 
  • Accept: Do nothing and accept the risk as is.
  • Avoid: Dodge the situation so that it doesn't affect you. 
  • Strengthen/Mitigate: Reduce the impact by being more robust or mitigating the risk.
  • Benefit/Gain: Turn the risk into a positive by finding an upside or becoming more antifragile.
Having a fragile area in your life is a risk, but it's also an issue. It's a risk in that the fragility could make you more prone to negative effects. However it's an issue because you are already fragile right now. My example was a teacup. The teacup is fragile and there's a risk of breaking it. You can accept the risk and keep using your teacup, avoid the risk by selling the teacup and using a plastic tumbler, mitigate the risk by never using your teacup and storing it safely in a cabinet. But how do you turn the fragile teacup itself into a benefit?

Or for a more realistic example, let's say your job is fragile. Because of economic forces beyond your control, you have a high probability of getting laid off in the next year.* Well, you can accept the risk and do nothing. You can avoid the risk by hunting for a new job. You can mitigate the risk by doing really good work and saving a cushion to cover your expenses. But how do you turn the risk into a benefit? 

* Pop quiz, if you work, what are your odds of getting laid off in the next year? 

One of the things that Taleb talks about are environments that are prone to having extreme effects come from very minor causes. He calls this Extremistan, and we all live there. Small inputs can have outsized results -- Black Swan events. We already looked at using divination in order to see those events coming in order to either dodge/mitigate (for negative) or embrace/strengthen (for positive) them. There we were focused on the outcome. But what about the inputs?

One of the reasons we live in Extremestan is because our world is very fragile. There are lots of places that are super sensitive to shocks and the system is set up so that outcomes are unequal and outsized. You don't have 100,000 excellent singers each making a modest living. You have one excellent singer who makes millions and 99,999 more who get nothing. Our society isn't set up for the median, the average, the run of the middle, the middle of the road -- Mediocristan. The disappearance of the middle class is an excellent example of this. You are either a rarefied member of the 1% or one of the huddled masses.

This can be depressing. There's clearly an element of luck involved in wining and few good options for being number two (let alone number 49,998). Just working hard and being good isn't enough.

But for magicians, this can be exciting news. If practical magic is changing the odds in your favor, then the more you can leverage small inputs for big results, the easier it is to make change. And systems that have lots of inherent chaos are optimal magical targets.

Note, as I've written about before, this is why the lottery is a shitty magical target. Yes, the odds are long, but the real problem is that they are also extremely hard to shift. The lottery is random, but it's not chaotic at all. It's randomness is completely controlled. It's a bad magical target. Good magical targets are those things that are easy to shift, that have lots of chaos in the system, that can have outsized results. Good magical targets are fragile.

Which brings us to my fourth option for dealing with something fragile in your life -- SMASH IT.


Right. That's better!
I realize this advice flies against everything we're taught about how to be a grownup in the world. We're taught that if something is fragile, you have to take really good care of it. If it's not going well, you have to work harder to maintain and protect it. Many a terrible marriage is based on this flawed and faulty premise. If things aren't going well -- AKA if your marriage is fragile -- you need to expend more time and energy maintaining and protecting it.

Now, certainly, if you have a reasonably strong marriage, I'm not recommending you run at the first sign of trouble. My spouse and I have always had very strong, stable marriage, and a few years ago we learned that it wasn't just stable, but antifragile. -- When things were tough, our relationship got stronger.

But if you have a relationship (whether it's a marriage, friendship, family bond) that is highly fragile, maybe it's better not to baby and protect it, to pour every erg of your energy into it. To keep it limping along. Maybe you should just smash it. Rip off the band aid. Declare it over and move on.

Ditto with work. I think it goes without saying that most people really need a job to pay their bills. They aren't independently wealthy and would find being unemployed a financial strain or even impossible to deal with. So what happens? They get trapped in terrible, fragile situations, sometimes for decades. They hope for stability, but what ends up happening is that the terrible stress and constant expenditure of energy leaves them unable to find something new. And for a person with a mortgage and a car payment (or alternately, someone who's desperate for the money to have a roof over their head at all), smashing it sounds like the worst possible advice. But for a magician, it might just be the right thing to do.


Or where you live. I grew up in a shitty little town with no economic prospects but drug dealing and nothing to do except drugs. And as soon as I could, I moved as far away as I could manage. And over the years we've moved several more times. Where you live (from your roommate to your continent) has a huge impact on who you become and what your life can be. I mean that seriously and from personal experience. If you don't like the place you are, if it's fragile for you, then take the leap and go out into the world.

Now please note, I'm not recommending just breaking delicate parts of your life without any preparation. I'm talking about using your fragility as a magical tool. For carefully enchanting around the fragile area and only then smashing it -- and using the energy and chaos released from that act to effect the change you want. And that's going to take some thought and planning before you get out the hammers.

And I have to say that breaking may only seem like breaking. I had a moment in my life where I had to take a fragile (and very stressful) family relationship and literally smash it wide open. I thought it would be the end. But instead of ending up with no family, I ended up with a better and stronger relationship. One with healthier boundaries.

If you've been working along with the risk management posts, you probably already have a good idea of where you are fragile in your own life. So which do you baby and which are up for destruction? Time for some divination.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe...

The Black Swan Divination is all about telling the future. Finding out what things are coming and then, for the negative things, what you should do about it. This is the reverse. The goal here is finding out what will happen if you make certain choices now.

First of all, all caveats from the Black Swan Divination apply:
  • I've done these for myself, but haven't fully finalized the process. This is a work in progress. 
  • Feel free to use, but don't publish -- point people back here for information.
  • If you'd like me to perform this reading for you, I will do so for free, for a limited time, as long as you give me feedback. See the Services page for more information.
  • This is written for tarot, but other kinds of random sortilege systems should work too.
  • This is tech and not foo, feel free to add whatever religion or ritual you prefer.
To start, you need a short list of your fragile targets. This reading works best with no more than two or maybe three items. If you have a giant stack of fragility, you will want to pick the top two (in terms of risk, or stress, or instinct) and proceed in batches. If the result of the first two look positive, then stop there and get to work. You can worry about the rest later. Be specific. Unlike the Black Swan Divination, where you start with broad areas of your list, here you want to get into the details. So, Day Job at (Company) rather than Career and Relationship with Husband rather than Family.

Put each target at the top of a small sheet of paper (slightly larger than tarot card sized is good).

Now under each target, write a short list of the magic you will do surrounding that target. For example:

Day Job at Company
  • Perform working for a new job with X, Y, Z characteristics.
  • Cast drawing spell for new business opportunity that lets you be your own boss.
  • Enchant sigils for financial security through times of change.
  • Perform attraction and networking magic for financial backing for a new venture.
  • Call on (spirit/Deity) to silence the tongues of those who would speak against you.
  • Offer to ancestors to increase your confidence.
Relationship with Husband
  • Perform working to find safe affordable place to live.
  • Enchant sigils for increasing cooperation.
  • Complete healing spell for emotional wounds.
  • Create honey pot to sweeten any legal aspects.
  • Offer to ancestors for amicable custody resolution.
These are just examples. Your personal situation is obviously going to dictate the magic you do.

A couple of important points:
  • The question you will be asking in this reading is "if I do this magic and smash this target, what is the result?" So each bit of magic starts with a verb and is in the present tense.
  • The lists are relatively specific, but not overly specific. They outline what you are committing to do, magically, before you get to smashing. So you need to leave enough room for flexibility in the actual enchantments, but be detailed enough so that the reading can be accurate.
  • If you really aren't sure about workings, spells, or offerings, just preface everything with "Enchant for" instead.
  • Remember you are enchanting for what happens after you break what's wrong now. You aren't enchanting to keep the current situation going. So in the second list above, "Enchant sigils for increasing cooperation" isn't to make your marriage go more smoothly... it's to make your divorce go more smoothly. Keep that in mind. If you are really just going to do magic to make the current fragility more tolerable or more robust, that's a different project entirely.
Lay your sheets of paper out on your reading surface and take a second to review them. This kind of reading is more complex and subtle than just "past" goes here "future" goes here. Image yourself really doing the magic and then smashing your target. So for the first target above, you picture all the enchanting and then imagine walking into your boss' office and saying "you know what, I'm done." Imagine yourself spellcrafting into the night and then presenting your husband with divorce papers. Don't try to imagine the results. Just play your tape up until the point where you SMASH IT... and then pause. The goal here is to infuse the reading with your intent. This isn't a future you are considering, this is what you WILL DO... now let the reading tell you the outcome.

And by the way, calling a meeting to talk to your boss about your work environment or asking your husband to go to couples' counseling it's not smashing. Quitting is smashing. Demanding a promotion and pay raise or you walk right now is also smashing. Divorce court is definitely smashing. Those things are scary -- of course they are. And they might not be the right thing to do. But that's what we're trying to find out, so don't water down your reading at the key point.

Shuffle the deck in your usual manner (I always shuffle seven times and cut three) and then deal three cards onto each sheet of paper. Don't deal the cards around to the different targets. Focus on one at a time and again, visualize the magic and the mayhem as you deal the cards.

If you are into stating intent while reading (a technique I use) you can state:

"My job with (company) is fragile"
"I enchant for (key thing or things from your list)"
"And with my magic I SMASH this fragile job" (or break this harmful bond or dissolve this broken union -- whatever feels right).

Read reversed cards as reversed. Outcomes can be practical or spiritual, specific or archetypal. You may have a mix of both positive and negative outcomes. You may have a negative and then a positive, with the implication of moving to a better outcome (sure you may be sad and lonely after your divorce, you may be broke for a while after you quit your job, but the key is where you are headed).

Of course, only you can decide whether the outcome is worth the work and the risk. Lonely but content may be better than living in a constant state of low grade stress. Broke and struggling with your dreams might be, for you, the right thing to do. 

If so, then you have your magical to do list right there. If you want the outcome of the reading, you will have to fulfill your commitment to yourself. And that means doing all the magic you listed and then, finally, the scary break. No excuses.

If not, then there are the other alternatives outlined above: Accept, Avoid, Mitigate. These might be perfectly correct choices for you, but only if you make those choices from a place of strength and will, not out of fear. Choosing to accept a bad situation from a place of strength can actually help mitigate the effects of that situation on you. You chose this, for now, and for reasons that you accept.

It's my nature to always recommend the most proactive option. If you can't smash, mitigate and avoid. If you can't take the leap, at least keep making the baby steps. And if you must accept something that is risky and terrible, make it a retreat, but not a surrender. Rethink your plans and regroup before attacking the problem from another angle. 

But only you can tell you what do to. You do what you want.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mind War: Part 3 -- How much do you trust your government?

A couple of years ago, we realized that some of our mail was getting stolen. Particularly some Christmas checks and cash from well-meaning relatives. We purchased a locking box, but the issue continued. We ended up working with a postal investigator. She would send us tempting looking cards and letters and call us to see if they arrived.

When she called to let us know that the issue was resolved and we wouldn't have any more problems, she was evasive and vague. But I can tell you that we had a new postal carrier the very next day. And in the following year we had enough issues with our mail delivery (notes saying that our mailbox was blocked and they would no longer deliver, mail in the street -- locking box, remember?) that we ended up getting a PO Box for a time. Retaliation, I figure.

Maybe you're cynic enough to just nod and say "yeah, that's how it goes." But I can't help thinking, you know, if you can't trust mail to come, then doesn't that tell us our civilization is just hanging by a thread overall?


Shit's been pretty scary out there in the big world. The Friday of the Paris attacks, the kid (who is all of 12) came home and said "this is the start of WWIII." She's got a high school level WWII history class, but said that her teacher dodged the question of current parallels when she tried to ask it. But she can see it coming when she sees the news.

The US public and political response has been, for the most part, completely appalling and calls into question both our basic reasoning skills as well as our humanity. It's as if fear has rendered us unable to think straight (Gordon is right as usual).

I know I have readers in various countries around the world. But despite this being from a US perspective, I believe that much of it is applicable to any country. Because if the symptom is fear, the cause is lack of trust. (And if the cause is fear, the symptoms are hate and intolerance, but that's a rant for another day.)

Years and years ago (and yes, I'm getting old enough to use "years and years" un-ironically) I came to the realization that the ability of any civilization to survive relies on trust in the structures of that civilization -- that typically means trust in government. You don't have to like your government, but you have to trust it. This is regardless of the kind of government you have. The trust of the populace in the king, parliament, dictator, congress, or president is the lubricant that keeps gears and cogs of civilization moving. It's theoretically easier to trust a democracy (you own it, right?) but that's what makes the current trend so scary.

Nothing I've seen since has change my opinion on this. The solution to any problem, the advancement of any technology, the smooth functioning of nearly every public function is based on this.

Trust the US government "just about always / most of the time"
Go play with the numbers, it's interesting stuff
So, you can see the problem, right? 

This guy agrees (and he got book and a TED talk, so he must be awesome). He notes that the issue is global.

The reaction to this from anyone below the age of 60 is going to be shock.... shock that the US population was ever that naive. Meaning that most of us are not only mistrustful, but mistrustful retroactively. This probably explains why we see old people as hopelessly naive: they were the idiots who used to trust the government, lol.

This lack of trust is bi-partisan. Liberals don't trust the government to care for the environment, keep corporations in check, implement reasonable control of firearms, avoid killing the middle class through corporate welfare, levy logical taxes, and limit the power of authority to harass and spy on citizenry. Conservatives don't trust the government to respect the sovereignty of the states/local governments/individuals, do what's necessary to fight terrorism, limit pointless regulation that suppresses entrepreneurship, avoid killing the middle class through welfare to the poor, levy logical taxes, and limit the power of authority to harass and spy on citizenry.

And no one trusts the government to look past the next election and their own individual pocketbooks and future consulting gigs in order to get anything done whatsoever. In fact, I'm sort of shocked that 20% of us still actually trust the government. Who are these people?

This lack of trust is rendering us unable to implement solutions to our many problems. Even solutions that sound good and workable are ruined by our inability to trust that our government won't mess it up. And the lack of trust in the "other side" goes all the way to the top, to the government itself. So it's a self-fulfilling prophecy as half our government mistrusts the other half.

And whether the government is literally trustworthy, or ever was, is actually not that relevant. It's the perception of trust that matters. I know that sounds crazy, but if a majority of people trust the government to have its act together, to align its best interests with that of the populace, to accomplish its goals with a minimum of bullshit... they will allow the government to at least attempt to function.

It's similar to currency. Paper fiat money is a civilized fiction, a collective delusion. But despite the fact that there's no "there" there (nothing of hard value to back the paper), the general "full faith" in the currency allows it to function and it therefore gains value from that fact alone. The bank that holds my mortgage, the farmers market, the electric company, and the gas station will all accept US currency without any issue. In fact, they will go further and accept the fiction of the fiction of value by taking my promise of currency through a credit card, debit card, or personal check (theoretically, I rarely use checks anymore).

In fact, the government expends a lot of time and effort making sure that the currency fiction never wavers because the result would be chaos. Chaos that impacts everyone, but particularly the wealthy entities of our country (Wall Street, banks, corporations, the government itself). I think this happens because the effort is tightly scoped (there are only a handful of official entities involves in literally "making money") and relatively under the radar.

Too bad there's not a similar effort to keep up the sense of trust around the rest of the government. But in fact, the opposite is true. There are many entities that are highly invested in eroding our trust -- in the government, in science, in knowledge, and in each other. And while, as a liberal, I feel justified in pointing to conservative media and churches, there are people who claim every political affiliation who do exactly the same. Some of that erosion is accurate and some inaccurate (I've taken my share of potshots at industries like big pharma and agriculture that I believe are actively harming us). But at a certain point, truth matters less than usefulness.

Above all, trust is eroded by the government itself which shows you just how dysfunctional the system is, as they stand there and shoot themselves in the foot for dollars (the soap opera of the current Republican party is the most visible example, but not the only one by far).

Liberals don't trust corporations and conservatives don't trust the government. What we both seem to be missing is that at this point the two are fundamentally the same. There was a time when, regardless of your political alignment, you expected both to act for the general good -- because the general good for us was also good for them. Happy customers buy more widgets. Happy people reelect their leaders. Now we expect the exact opposite... and they endlessly meet our expectations.

The politics of the US is barely functional, and while the problem is worse at the federal level, it permeates every level of society (right down to the local mail). And corporations and financial entities are no better. Their "enlightened self interest" is no longer aligned with our best interests. So we don't expect to be able to trust them, and indeed they aren't trustworthy in large ways and small (looking at you VW). They will gleefully bankrupt all of us and the Earth for their short term profits until we all collapse together. How else do you explain the '08 crash? You hoover enough money out of the larger economy and it starts to all be smoke and mirrors. It takes only the slightest breeze for the whole thing to go *poof* into the ether.

In fact, this hints at the reason behind the erosion of trust. If trust is required for civilizations to get anything done, it's also required for civilization to change. If you want a different system, you need to come together in a general atmosphere of trust. You have to trust that you can work with people who aren't like you, who have different beliefs and goals and views on the world, to find a way to make things better for everyone. No trust? Status quo, all the way.

We can't change the trajectory we're on -- as a society -- because we don't trust anyone or anything. And there are those who like this just fine. At least some of these entities are obvious, those who benefit from the current mess, who make the money and have the power. Some are less obvious, those who love the fear and lack of trust, who lap up our dark energy and get power and enjoyment from it. That sounds supernatural, but every person standing there saying "fuck the refugees, fuck the immigrants, fuck the poor" are sipping a thimbleful of that poison themselves.

The result is two things, both scary:

  • First, the current system can't be fixed from within or without because it no longer functions well enough.
  • Second, the current system is unsustainable and will eventually collapse.
If there's a takeaway here, it's that politics both harmful and useless. Vote if you must (and based on the current US circus, you may need to), but don't waste any time thinking about or debating or arguing politics. It's a shell game, created to divide and distract us while the world burns and the .1% divide the spoils.

Look local, keep it personal, build trust and networks of trust wherever you can. Don't give in to fear. 

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

And Now For Something Completely Different

Back in 2004, when I had just published my book, a friend asked me to contribute a chapter to a project he was working on based on the magic of various crafts. I wrote the chapter and sent it off, but the project never came together and no book was published. Recently, I was digging through my old computer files and found a copy of it.

While it's outside the scope of this blog, I couldn't resist finally seeing this in print. It's definitely more my "book" style rather than my blog style. For example, the inclusion of various example spells is something that book publishers really like. One fascinating element is a rather large (and admittedly lazy -- though I did get permission from the author) extract from a now defunct website.


Cords and Knots

The origins of cording (or braiding) and knotting are ultimately unknowable, hidden in our furthest past. Knot historian and researcher Pieter van de Griend believes that knots are "man's oldest technological achievement, possibly even predating the discovery of fire." Combining several strands of vine or long grass to make one stronger strand is the forerunner of spinning and probably one of humankind’s earliest discoveries. While the materials that formed these earliest cords would not have survived, we can guess their age through implication. For example, beads and pendants (which would suggest the use of cords and knotting) have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. The oldest known pierced objects (a drilled wolf incisor and a bone point) were excavated from an Austrian cave and dated to 300,000 years old. [1]

In the cave of Lascaux in France, home of the famous Ice Age sorcerer and other 17,000 year old rock paintings, a petrified piece of braided cord was found imprinted in the stone floor. It is believed that this cord might have been used to lower ritual participants into the sacred “pit” area.[2]  In addition, the Venus of Willendorf, dated to between 25,000 and 22,000 BCE, has meticulously carved braids surrounding her blank face.

While the earliest uses of cords and knots are ultimately unknowable, they certainly have been used throughout recorded history and before. From the simplest cord and over hand knot, many of the other fiber arts would eventually develop: spinning, knitting and crochet, even weaving. From wholly practical (securing clothing and harnessing animals) to beautifully ornate (macramé, decorative braiding, and seaman’s artistry) knots have been used so frequently and in so many ways that it’s difficult to separate the history of knots and cords from the history of humankind in general. However the art of cording/knotting for practical, decorative, and magical purposes seems to have been developed primarily on the sea.

A sailor on a long voyage would have had little to occupy his free time and not many supplies or tools beyond what was standard onboard equipment. Examples of early seamen’s arts (elaborate whale-bone and driftwood carving, detailed model ship building, and so on) were based on our need to create – even when there was little to use and inspire the artist. This human urge for beauty and the display of skill, which drove these coarse, uneducated men as much as the most well-known Renaissance painter, can certainly be considered magical. In any case it’s no wonder that on a ship outfitted with lots of rope, seamen would have had the time and inclination to invent and improve on not only practical nautical knots, but also braiding and knotting for purely decorative purposes.

There are examples of knots used for magical purposes scattered throughout the cultures and histories of the world. Eliza Fegley, creator and maintainer of the Pagan Database [3], includes the following brief overview on her knot magic site [4].

Knot magic has been in use since ancient antiquity and can be found in the art and literature of all ancient cultures, from ancient Mesopotamia onwards. It is also found in all the religions of the world.

It was a practice among Catholics to tie a knot when invoking saints to bind the saints to them until they have done their bidding. 

Mohammed, founder of Islam, was cursed by a knot and, had it not been found and untied, it is said that Mohammed would have died. Some male followers of the Islam religion will tie a knot in their beard to protect them from the evil eye. When at sea, they might tie several knots in their clothing to put an end to violent winds, but when going to Mecca they must not have any knots in their clothing.

In Hinduism, knot tying is often associated with the death gods. 

Buddhists refer to the untying of knots as a "process of liberation." [5] 

Knot tying was common in Roman magic as images of lovers were sometimes tied together to keep the couple bound to each other. Solemn oaths were also made to their deities while tying a knot. 

In mythology, we have the Fates who wove, knotted, and cut the strings of life. We also have the famous Gordian Knot which Alexander was said to have cut in two with his sword.

In not so long ago times, there were men and women who were called blowers of knots. They would recite incantations while tying knots. The most famous of these incantations were done for wind knots. 

Wind knots were three knots made in a string, rope, or rag and sold to sailors. If a sailor were to untie one knot, he would get a moderate wind. If he should untie 2 knots, the wind would blow half a gale. To untie all 3 knots would have caused a hurricane. [2] 

Knots are prevalent in wedding lore, where two people are united in marriage which is also known as "tying the knot." From the Dark Ages to the 18th century, it was forbidden to tie a knot at someone's wedding for fear that it would prevent a true union between the bride and groom. Another form of knot magic associated with weddings is the wearing of a net over the bride's head. Today, brides often wear a veil, originally meant to protect them from the evil eye and evil sorcery during their wedding day. 

During a woman's labor it was custom in many cultures worldwide to undo all knots within the house. In black magic, knots can be used to hinder or stop the birth of a child, killing both the mother and infant. It was also believed that a knot can cause a painful and difficult delivery. 

To knot a cloth that had touched a man's penis was believed to bring about his impotence. The same was held true to tying a knot into a man's pubic hair and burying it in the earth. 

When someone was dying, it was once a common practice to untie all knots within the room so as to not keep the dying person bound to life and suffering. 

In Russia, knot magic was once very common. There are written accounts of the many types of knot spells including an 8 double-knot curse to use against an enemy in which wool yarn was used. As each double-knot was made, these words were spoken: 

"1. I go out onto the road, 2. I throw into the open field, 3. into the distance, 4. between the homesteads, 5. into the fields, 6. into the seas, 7. into the forest, 8. into the quaking bag." [4] 

This cord was then left in a place where its intended victim would step on it. 

For protection from harm by a gun or other weapon, 5 knots were tied in a cord and kept about the body. 

Red wool thread with nine knots was sometimes worn by children to protect them from fever. 

A cord with 40 knots might be kept as an amulet for protection against thieves. 

In today’s world, knot magic continues to have its place. Examples of this would be in the dream catchers made by the Lakota's, the "Eye of God", and shell decorated nets that are hung in homes and businesses. 

Select Bibliography: 
1. Amulets and Superstitions by E. A. Wallis Budge. Dover Publications. 1978. 
2. The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer. Collier Books. 1963. 
3. Taboo, Magic, Spirits: A Study of Primitive Elements In Roman Religion by Eli Edward Burriss. Greenwood Press. 1972. 
4. The Bathhouse at Midnight: Magic In Russia by W. F. Ryan. The Pennsylvania State University Press. 1999. 
5. The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols by Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant. Translated by John Buchanan-Brown. 1996.

Cords too have a lot of associated symbolism. From the cords used during college commencement ceremonies, in traditional Japanese dress, and to take your measure when you join a coven – the combination of strands of fiber to make a more complex, beautiful, and stronger finished product had definite magical associations.

Knots and cords have even been used for communication. There are many systems of using knots to symbolize numbers. In times past, an illiterate person might keep a numeric inventory or accounting by tying knots in a string. Incan quipus were knotted cords used for communicating both numeric and literary information. As a form of language, quipus were portable and sturdy and the materials to make them easily obtained. These are the same properties that can make knots and cords so useful for magic today.

We have many advantages over our knot working ancestors. There are host of books and sites devoted to the art of knot tying, with detailed illustrations and practical techniques. In addition, methods for braiding cord have been researched all over the world and collected in excellent reference works. But however easy it is to find knot and cord information, actually creating them can still take a certain amount of skill and practice. The best way to become adept at any new skill is to enjoy your practice as much as the final product. For knot and cord magic, the practice can become part of the spell. If you want to create a specific knot and need some time to learn it and get it right, you can use that practice time to refine your intent as well. By the time the knot looks perfect, the magical symbolism and will you imprint on it should be as well.

There’s an important difference between a knot and a tangle. While a knot is a collection of structured and planned twists in some length of material, a tangle is a chaotic jumble. Knots are usually also easy to undo (although it might take the sailors’ marlinspike or a sharp pick or knitting needle to do the trick). Tangles however can be maddening to sort out. Knots are like the traditional labyrinth – convoluted, but containing an underlying structure with an obvious path. Tangles are more like a maze – multiple openings, paths, and dead ends. Labyrinths can be transformative and very useful, but it’s the maze that can get you truly lost. This can give us some hints as to how knots and tangles differ in magical use.

For example, the traditional witch ball often contained a tangle of threads. To get into your house, it was believed that the witch would have to follow the path each of the threads. No doubt any witch intending to do so would get hopelessly lost. This was the same idea as the bottle or ball filled with sand. The witch was supposed to have to count every grain. Of course, all the witches I know just ring the front doorbell to get in. However, replace the term “witch” with “negative energy” and you’re closer to the real use of these items. A ball or bottle filled with tangled thread can be charged to send unwanted energy astray or catch it in the tangle. A bit like the Native American dream catcher, allowing good dreams to pass through the center but catching the nightmares in the surrounding web.

When I was a young girl and my mother brushed my long hair, she’d refer to the tangles as a “hex” or “hexen.” In addition to being a synonym for “curse” in English, Hex is also the German word for witch – a fact that I found fascinating when I got older. When I do serious magic, I often find that my hair is very tangled afterward. Brushing before and after helps keep my energy unbound and flowing as well as my hair. This binding effect could be deliberately recreated for magical purposes, particularly in regard to a promise you make to yourself or another. Like tying a string around your finger to help you remember something, tying a knot in your hair could help you keep your promise in mind – literally binding it to your self. You can also use the binding/confusing effect of a tangle to keep someone from following you (either literally or astrally) or protect a place from unwanted attention.

Creating a tangle for magical use doesn’t require any particular skill. Your cat could probably help you just by being left alone with a ball of yarn for half an hour. Structured knots, on the other hand, do require some knowledge and skill to use. While the most basic knotting techniques require only the appropriate symbolism and intent (along with a half hitch), more advanced knot magic will use the varying character and mathematical properties of the knots themselves to strengthen the spell.

Knotting is a huge field. The Ashley Book of Knots, considered the definitive encyclopedia of knotting, lists almost 4000 different knots. In addition, the innovative knotter can create infinite variations of common knots by changing the direction or number of turns. Most knots can be placed in one of several categories, such as the splice, knot, bend, or hitch. Although there might be hundreds of examples within each area, fortunately you only have to know a few to get started.

Early on, knots got divided into two broad areas: practical and decorative. Practical knots include basic nautical knotting, net weaving, splicing, and the types of knots you’d find in the Boy Scout’s Handbook. Decorative knotting includes paper knots, hair knots, and – more symbolically -- Celtic knotwork and labyrinths. There is some overlap of course. For example, macramé is both practical and decorative. And the more advanced seamen’s knots can be used on board ship as well as for the lovely seaman’s chest, cane tops, and so on.

Magically, a knot functions as a node of energy. One common way of using knots for magic saves the mage’s energy inside the knot until it is either untied (like the wind knots of folklore) or disintegrates on its own. For example, by knotting a small piece of cord while in a particularly relaxed meditative state, you can create a stress-relief bracelet. The relaxing energy/intent is stored in the knots until needed. When you are confronted with a tense situation, unknotting one of the nodes will release the energy and have a calming effect on your or the situation. You might also rid yourself of some unwanted trait or emotion by knotting it into a piece of biodegradable material and leaving it out in Nature to rot. As the knot disintegrates, so too will the thing you want to rid yourself of.

Another technique for using knots in magic is to have the knots release their energy over time. This can be excellent for a house blessing or protection spell. You charge the knot(s) at the right time (I like the full moon for blessings and the dark moon for protection) and then allow the energy to slowly exude over the course of the coming month. You would naturally need to recharge the spell at the next appropriate time.

Because knots are both practical and decorative, you can increase the effectiveness of this type of spell by using the knot as part of the item being protected or blessed. For example, a house blessing knot could be used as part of a door knocker, bell pull, handle, curtain pull, and so on. The action of actually using the knot helps release the appropriate energy. For a person, the knot can be worn as a decorative item (wire knots are perfect for this) or used on clothing instead of buttons or clasps. Want a spell to help your car run better? Make your knot into a keychain.

A final method for using knots in magic is to draw outside energy to you and store it in the knot. We already discussed how negative energy can be shunted into a tangle. Using knots for this technique allows you to store the energy you wish to collect for later use or stop energy traveling in a particular direction. For example, a spell to draw good fortune into your life could involve a Chinese cloverleaf knot to collect and dissipate the good energy. This type of spell works well as part of a cord/knot combination, as described below.

As you begin studying the character of various knots in order to discover their magical properties, you will want to look at both their practical uses as well as their structural properties. Splicing is the technique used for joining two pieces of rope into a seamless length. Therefore an obvious magical use is to join two people together during a wedding ceremony. A hitch is a knot used to form a temporary noose in a line or to secure a line temporarily to an object. This type of knot would be perfect for spells that are also temporary in nature, such as a get-well-soon charm for a sick friend. A bend, on the other hand is a knot by which one rope is fastened to another or to some object. This class of knots would be perfect for symbolically tying objects to a base line. For example, adding charms or symbols to the infamous witch’s ladder.

A knotted rope ladder can help the maker ascend to new heights – either spiritually or in a mundane sense. Netting is used to capture fish, therefore a hand-knotted net could easily be spelled to capture any type of positive energy or trait the magician desired. And a knotted doormat could protect your home from unwanted guests while blessing the steps of your friends and loved ones.
Macramé is probably the culmination of the practical knotter’s art. A combination of cording and knotting, the macramé mage (macramagé?) can create quite complex spells that are both highly decorative as well as potentially quite practical. Put aside your preconceived notions of 70s disco pads, cheesy knotted owl wall hangings, and that horrible hairy brown fiber. Macramé can be used to create many beautiful and useful objects including jewelry, bags, and plant or basket hangers. Made with modern materials and a more up-to-date sensibility, the resourceful mage can cord and knot their intent into each item.

If analyzing the practical purposes of various knots sounds a bit boring and non-magical, remember that some of these knots have been used for millennia. A two-thousand year old Roman warship unearthed at Pisa has a preserved knotted rope that’s very similar to the knots used on board ships today. All sailors, past and present, rely on their knots and knotting knowledge to get them home safely. And some knots are considered dangerous because, when used for inappropriate purposes, they have caused injury and death. There’s a sense of mysticism and power inherent in these knots not in spite of, but because of their practical uses.

However, decorative knots don’t have such an obvious function. These knots are praised for their beauty and complexity alone. In this case, the mage is left to infer the best use of the knot from its character and shape. The mathematics of knotting is a sophisticated and complex area of study. But even without a highly specialized background, close observation of the knot and its creation can help you determine a logical use.

The number of strands and number and frequency of inner twists or crossings may suggest a numerical value that can be used to correspond to planets, colors, tarot cards and so on. For example, the star knot is created from a five-strand cord and has an obvious pentagonal shape. The tack knot, on the other hand, is made from three-strand cord and ends up as a small round. Wall knots can be created from a cord with any number of strands and create a simple ridge or ring around the cord itself. Round knots are wall knots topped by crown knots. They can use any number of strands. These examples are all basic knots that are relatively easy to create. A bit of experimentation and research unearthed the following numerical knot correspondences:


  1. Single half hitch – the standard once over and pull knot that we are all familiar with.
  2. Blimp knot – a simple figure eight knot (technically a lanyard) with two symmetrical loops. As with a half hitch, the two ends of the cord emerge from either side of the knot.
  3. Tack knot – creates a bulbous end to a three-strand cord.
  4. Chinese cloverleaf – uses one cord to create a knot with a definite clover shape. Suitable for hanging.
  5. Star knot – almost a pentagram of fiber, this knot starts with a five-strand cord and is basically a wall knot topped by a crown knot.
  6. Mathew Walker’s knot – created from a three-strand cord, this knot ends up with three top loops and three bottom ones. It creates a little round knob at the end of the rope.
  7. Pectoral knot – meant to be worn suspended at two points from a cord. The unique mathematical properties of the number seven mean that few knots, apart from the ubiquitous wall and round knots, incorporate the number. However this asymmetrical knot has a definite seven-ish character.
  8. Mystic knot – according to Lydia Chen, this is one of the eight Buddhist treasures, also called the Pan Chang knot. (Chinese Knotting)
  9. Oval mat – creates a small, flat oval-shaped knot from a single cord whose size depends on the starting cord. The strand is traditionally doubled to avoid seeing light through the mat.


A second way of determining a magical use for a knot is through its shape. Globe knots, like round knots, create spherical shapes, but the ends are clipped and tucked in. It’s easy to make a connection to the various planets. In fact The Complete Book of Decorative Knots has four globe knots named Earth, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter (based mainly on whimsy and the relative size of the knots). While these are challenging to tie, they are also quite beautiful and would make a lovely addition to an altar (the rope version of a crystal ball).

Globe knots are circular and some of the larger ones require an inner core to remain stable. Usually some kind of sphere or Styrofoam ball, for spellwork the inner core could be a bundle of relevant herbs, rune engraved knot of wood, or small wad or role of paper containing a written spell. The knot is wound and tied around the inner part of the spell, hiding as well as protecting the heart of your working (more on this technique in the section on cording below).

The Chinese cloverleaf is shaped very much like a four-leaf clover – a symbol of luck and good fortune. As the number four is associated with the Earth and practical matters, the good fortune would most likely be material in nature. Use this knot then to bring luck to your house or garden or to draw literal prosperity (cash!) into your life.

Some knots are symbolic rather than literal. Celtic knotwork, as carved on ancient stone monuments or reproduced in the Book of Kells, is the art of representing three-dimensional knots in two-dimensional form. The repeating motifs of these beautiful works of art lend themselves to magical use and interpretation as much as any other knot. In fact, with patience you could recreate a pictured knot with actual cord. Or simply learn to draw the knots yourself to lend power to a spell on paper or fabric.

Another highly symbolic knot is the labyrinth. While each individual knot has a purpose and character all its own, a labyrinth is a much more profound and universal symbol. Labyrinths, and their cousins the spirals, have a body of meaning, myth, and iconography that spans all times and cultures. Cyclical time, death and rebirth, courage, and initiation are some of the interpretations of this archetype. Working with the labyrinth for spiritual or magical purposes is a broad area of study in itself. You might begin by finding a labyrinth in your area and walking it. You can also create a labyrinth out of cord to walk with your fingers. Creating such a knot can be challenging – it’s not easy following all the twists and turns from a picture – but even little labyrinths can induce altered states of consciousness when used for meditation.

Once you’ve knotted your spell, it can be handled in many ways. A knot in the middle of a string already has handy ends for hanging or tying – you could hang it inconspicuously in your home, wear it tied around your wrist or ankle, or include it as part of a charm or amulet bag. You can also sew a knot onto or into a piece of clothing. For example, the good fortune cloverleaf knot described above is flat. It could easily be stitched onto clothing as decoration or to use as the button loops for knot buttons, as traditionally seen in Oriental clothing.

Knots can also be buried. This would be perfect for spells to bind an unpleasant habit that are then left to “rot” in the ground. Knots made from less degradable material can be used for spells to fertilize or protect the land where they are interred. However many knots are too beautiful to hide or destroy. They can be displayed as art objects or altar tools and no one need know their real purpose.

Individual knots easily function alone as spells. It’s a simple matter to knot your intention into a cloverleaf or blimp knot and you might carry a piece of string for these purposes. However, individual knots can also be combined with cording techniques for more sophisticated magical purposes.

The art of cording can be considered a relative of both weaving and knotting. The common three-strand hair braid is the simplest version of what can be a very complex art involving any number of strands in different colors. This type of cord is known in the nautical world as sennit. A typical braid consists of individual strands woven together by a series of regular overlaps. Unlike weaving however this type of cord has no warp and weft. For all their ins and outs, each strand moves in the same direction.

This trait causes magical energy to move along a braid’s length from end to end and makes woven cord perfect for spells to draw something to you or create a connection between two things. For example, if you wanted to draw more love into your life you could braid a “love leash.” Tied to your bedpost with a heart or charm knotted onto one end, it can be used to connect you with those you love or draw loving energy to you. Note that the emotion you want to encourage will travel from you as well as to you. That’s because, while most braids of this type do have a top and bottom, the energy can run along them in both directions equally. This means that the ends of braids are as important as their length. A knot at the end of a cord is not only useful for keeping the cord from unraveling (and unraveling your spell along with it) it’s also great for storing the energy of the spell.

Since woven cords are stronger than their individual strands, they can be used by covens and groups as symbols both of their combined strength and unified direction. The Maypole is one interesting example of this type of cording. As the dancers move around the central pole, they weave their individual ribbons into a powerful symbol of the integration of different parts into a whole (traditionally for Beltane, the integration of male and female, either directly through copulation or symbolically as a union of opposites within).

The Maypole is an example of a braid that uses a central cord or pole as a stabilizing device. On boats, both braiding and knotting techniques are used to cover items. A slippery handrail is made both safer and more beautiful by the application of coachwhipping, bracketed by running turk’s head knots. A rope fender (the bumper that keeps a ship from damaging herself against a dock) needs a central core to keep the structure of the cord from collapsing.

Magically, this type of cord with a core can be used to cover a wand or staff or create a type of standing spell. In this case the core would symbolize the item you wanted to attain, while the surrounding cord indicates the individual aspects needed to attain it. Alternately, the cord could symbolize an item you wanted to protect and the outer wrapping the protection you weave around. In addition, cording can be used as a kind of container to hide the spell within. For example, you might cut a twig and carve the purpose of the spell on it. The outer cording would then hide your intent from outside eyes, allowing you to use the wand openly.

Because braiding involves multiple strands, it can be used to combine different types of energy into a seamless whole. For example, the three strands of the simplest braid can represent the waxing, full, and waning moon. The finished braid is magically tied to the complete lunar cycle and could be used in magical working with a lunar component (dream work or intuition development) or to spiritually connect with the moon or a lunar Deity. Another example might be creating a household spell for health, peace, and prosperity. The finished cord would be hung in the entry of your home (perhaps to suspend a wind chime or as a bell pull) to draw those energies inside.

A different type of cording involves combining the strands by a long series of knots. Your junior high friendship bracelet or macramé hanging planter are cords created by repeating individual knots. This type of cord often has a continuous twist, either sunward or widdershins. Instead of traveling straight along the length of the cord, the energy will twist around on itself through the knots in a spiral. Since knots have the property of storing energy, these kinds of knotted cords are perfect for channeling the stored energy outward and into the environment.

The traditional witches’ ladder is a cord with items knotted along its length. In many covens, the girdle or belt is also a cord with knots – symbolizing the person’s measure or used as a marker for drawing an appropriate sized circle. In this kind of knotted cord, the number and spacing of the knots is as important as the type of knot used. A Goddess cord could be woven from nine strands, three each of black, red, and white, with seven wall knots spaced at nine-inch intervals, plus a round knot at each end. The finished length of the cord would be seven intervals of nine inches, or 63 inches – a number that also adds to nine (6 + 3 = 9).

The arts of knotting and cording can also be combined for less esoteric magical purposes. For example, you can make your own wind chimes by attaching small objects to a series of cords strung from a stick, ring, or other sturdy hanger. Fresh energy moving in the wind is captured in the objects and channeled up and around the cords in order to dissipate on your porch or entryway. Obviously, objects that make pleasing tones (bits of crystal, metal disks, or short tubes) can increase the magical pleasure and effect of this kind of spell.

Because knots and cords combined can create these kinds of practical household objects, your spells can be hidden in plain sight. Plant hangers for health, pot holders for plenty or safety, a nautical rope mat to ward off unfriendly guests and Jehovah’s Witnesses – all will do their work in your home without anyone being the wiser. Macramé jewelry or decorative wire knots can be worn daily or for ritual and look as good as they are useful for spell work.

As with many types of magic, the two primary things you need to create a knot or cord spell are your intent and the correct correspondences for the item you want to create. Intent is simply a matter of raising and focusing the appropriate energy while tying or braiding. Correspondences, however, can be more complex.

As discussed above, numerology lends itself readily to being used as a magical correspondence for this type of spellwork. The number of strands in a cord, the number of twists in a knot, the number of inches – all can be used to help target your working.

Color is another way to symbolize what you want from your spell. String and fiber of different types can be purchased in a rainbow of shades. Spinning and/or dying your own lengths of line will integrate more of yourself into the working. However, if you are willing to experiment with more modern materials, you can include iridescent and metallic cords in your spells as well.

Still, natural materials are typically recommended for magic. For cord and knot magic, that means cotton, wool, hemp, silk, or the like. Cotton is a very absorbent substance while wool and other mammal fibers are insulating (which is why you wear wool in the winter). Silk is both cooling and warm and is, pound for pound, one of the strongest materials. Think about these characteristics when deciding what to use for your spells. Magic to collect and absorb a certain energy or influence would be best in cotton. Wool would lend itself to protection spells. And a spell for balance or strength would be perfect in silk.

Planetary correspondences can be used to enhance almost any spell. Color and number are already traditionally associated with the various planets. For example, you can create globe knots representing the planets by using the appropriate size and number of strands. You can also create your knots from metal wire with the appropriate planetary connection. Copper (Venus), tin (Jupiter), and iron (Mars) can be purchased at hardware stores, lead (Saturn) from chemical outlets, and gold (Sun) and silver (Moon) from specialty jewelry suppliers. Bending a cord or knot out of wire would be perfect for magical jewelry or hair ornaments as well as altar sculptures and your most permanent spells.

Another medium that lends itself to magical work is paper knotting. A branch of origami, paper knots are created from long strips of paper (ticker tape for example) folded into a series of flat knots. Beautiful shapes can be created, including long paper “cords,” multi-pointed stars, and solid and open globes. A spell could be written on the paper and then folded into a beautiful and powerful shape. It could then be displayed, hidden, or even burned – depending on the nature of the working.

As mentioned above, hair can be a very personal medium for knot magic. If you have long hair, you can braid and knot the spell right onto your head. For both short and long hairstyles, other materials can be attached to or woven in with the hair. Narrow lengths of silk ribbon would be attractive as well as easy to remove without damage (using twisted yarn or wool would tend to trap your hair into the twist) and can be easily obtained in any appropriate color. Hair weaving would lend itself perfectly to confidence or beauty spells, glamouring, and spells to enhance your intuition or mental processes in some way.

Another way to enhance the symbolism of your knot or cord spell is to use essential oils and scents. Cotton will readily absorb the scent of both oil and incense smoke. Oiled knots can pull double duty as air fresheners as breezes pass through and release the odor. For example, a spell to purify your home could use the scent of lemon or pine to also purify and freshen the air within it.

Anything that can be braided or knotted can be used as a medium for your spell. This leads to very interesting and off-beat ideas. For example, fuse cord could be knotted and then lit as part of the casting. Or flashpaper could be cut into strips and knotted in order to be tossed – woosh! – into a fire. Even long grasses, wheat stalks, or vines of any type can be used. Corn dollies and Brigit’s Crosses aren’t exactly knots, but there is a connection. For dried grass, you’ll want to soak in water to soften the stalks. Green grass can be knotted and then allowed to dry into shape.

The materials, colors, scents, length and so on all depend on the type of spell you want to do. The following are some basic suggestions for combinations. But remember, these symbols must be meaningful for you – and backed by your will, skill, energy, and intent – for the spell to work.

Memory Charm
This is a variation on the old ‘string around the finger’ reminder trick. When you need to remember something important, you can knot the memory into a string. A simple square knot will work fine, associated as it is with earth and material matters. Tie it with intent while announcing, out loud, the thing you want to remember. Then carry it with you until you need a reminder. Then close your eyes and unknot the spell by your ear to “hear” your original announcement.

Solar House Protection Spell
Use three lengths of yellow cotton, in three bright shades, and tie the ends into a Mathew Walker’s knot (associated with the number six). Then braid the three lengths together until you have six inches. You can weave six gold beads into the braid if you choose. Then anoint with orange oil, charge in your normal fashion, and hang in the entrance to your home.

Love Leash
Double a length of cord in an appropriate color (green for Venus or red for another traditional color of love). At one end, tie a loop to be hooked over your bedpost or a nail above your bed. At the other end, add a pectoral knot. This heart-shaped knot is associated with the number seven, for the planet Venus. Anoint with rose oil or twine a small living or silk rose into the knot. Charge and hang above your bed to draw love into your life.

Justice Knot Spell
Start with four lengths of thin cord (like embroidery floss) in four shades of deep purple and blue. Braid together with a series of square macramé knots. Add four amethyst or turquoise beads: one at the end and three more equally spaced. Knot into a loop to be worn around the wrist. Charge by passing through the smoke of oakmoss and sage on a Thursday and wear when you need to deal with legal matters, particular those associated with money.

Lunar Wisdom and Intuition Charm
Begin nine days before the full moon with nine silk ribbons, three each of white, grey, and black. Knot them at the top with a globe knot and then knot each ribbon around a ring or hoop (from 4 – 6 inches across) – a silver or silver-toned hoop would be the best. The ribbons should hang down, evenly spaced around the edge of the hoop. At the end of each ribbon, add a lunar charm such as: silver rings, round crystal or moonstone beads, crescent-shaped charms, and so on – whatever symbolizes the moon best to you. Do all this work at night, and wrap the charm in black silk during the day.

On the ninth night, hang your charm where the light of the moon will touch it (preferably outdoors) and draw the energy of the moon into it. Then allow it to absorb the energy of all phases of the moon by leaving it over a lunar month. On the next full moon, bring the charm into your home and hang it in an appropriate spot to help your intuition (your meditation spot would work well or the bathroom, if you are prone to long thoughtful baths).

Land Blessings
These charms are meant to be buried on a piece of property you own to cement your relationship with the land. They act as a request from the land as well as a promise to it. Get four spherical balls of wood and burn or paint your blessing charms (runes, phrases, sigils) on them. Mark each one with a blessing related to the four classical elements. Now consecrate four lengths of rope as a connection between you and the spirit of the property you are working with. Knot each rope into a large globe knot, using the wooden balls as the central cores. “Beat the bounds” or your land by walking along the property line and bury your blessing globes at the four cardinal points.

Harvest Spell
This spell is particularly useful if you have a garden of your own. At the end of the growing season where you live, collect some of the last plants from your yard or garden. Choose at least some plants, like long grasses, that can be woven. You can include vines, herbs, twigs from deciduous trees, the greenery from vegetables, and so on. Braid the long plant items into one continuous strand, and weave the other items in as you go. Then carefully twist your “cord” around itself to create a wrapped wreath. The spiral of the wrapping symbolizes the cyclical nature of the seasons. Bless your wreath so that the bounty of your harvest will sustain your through the long barren months. Of course, most of us don’t live in situations where starvation is really a possibility, but the fertility of your harvest combined with the creativity of your braiding can symbolize your intent to keep that fertile, creative ground going throughout the year.

Conclusion

Knot and cord spells are some of the most flexible types of magic. By marrying the right knots and cords with the appropriate symbolism (and your will and magical intent, of course) you can cast a spell for just about any purpose you can imagine. Even if you stick to the simpler knots and braids, you can create beautiful and practical magical objects for your person or household. And if you choose to take the craft further, making the effort to learn and explore the more complex varieties, your magic can only be improved by your mastery of these ancient arts. Beautiful, practical, and magical – knots and cords touch some very deep symbols within ourselves and allow us to bend reality just as we bend our string into the shape we want.

Books
The Ashley Book of Knots by Clifford W. Ashley
The Complete Book of Decorative Knots by Geoffrey Budworth
The Marlinspike Sailor by Hervey Garrett Smith
Braids: 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru, & Beyond by Rodrick Owen
The Beginner's Guide to Braiding: The Craft of Kumihimo by Jacqui Carey
The Macrame Book by Helene Bress
Hemp Masters: Ancient Hippie Secrets for Knotting Hip Hemp Jewelry by Max Lunger
Chinese Knotting by Lydia Chen

Footnotes
[1]  Robert G. Bednarik, `Palaeoart and archaelological myths', Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 2(1) (1992) 27-57
[2]  Alexander Marshack, The Roots of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings of Man's First Art, Symbol and Notation, McGraw-Hill, New York (1972), pp. 369-370.
[3] http://www.sacredspiral.com/Database/index.html
[4] http://www.sacredspiral.com/Database/knot/index.html Knot Magick A Brief History Copyright 2002, Eliza Fegley

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

PMPM Execution -- Organization

Sometimes, the kid comes home from sleepovers with other kid's clothes. It's usually because the original owner outgrew it or didn't like it and my kid did. Or it could be a swap of clothes. I usually only discover this when I catch it in the laundry (the kid sometimes does laundry, but when I do it, I'll grab whatever's dirty, so it's a mix). I long ago stopped worrying about this sort of thing. As long as the garment is cleanable and generally suitable for age and weather, the kid can wear whatever, so I don't stress too much. This is in part because I'm a cool parent (ask anyone) but also in part because I just don't have my shit together enough when it comes to laundry.

Not being organized about laundry doesn't cause me too much woe in my life. Enough gets done so that we have clean things to wear and I'm always conscientious about dress clothes and dry cleaning. Beyond that, if the laundry room is a mess and we're usually about four loads behind (where in gods' name did all these towels come from!) well, it's not the end of the world.

However, there are other areas of my life where being organized is much more critical. Work, for example. Clearly as a project manager, it's really important that I be organized. In fact a part of my role is really being organized for other people (I organize so you don't have to!). Being disorganized is bad, bad, bad in my line of work.

Expert Project Manager for hire...

I find that when I have a personal project or working I want to launch, being organized is just as critical. This is different from a place where I've already got my systems sorted and my habits set. There, the organization is more organic. But it takes work to get to that point. So my advice is to be organized about your workings -- particularly if they involve big changes or new processes. Documenting a project charter and plan and so forth is a part of that. In Part Two of the Project Planning post, we talked about creating a project schedule including deadlines, milestones, and repeating tasks.

However, having an organized list of stuff that you don't actually get organized enough to do isn't really helpful. When it comes to project execution, it's organizing your time and activities that means the difference between getting your shit done and not. This is one of the key components of making your plan actionable.

Since being organized is important for my work, you'd think I'd be really good at it. But what I've discovered over the years is that I often rely on raw brainpower in order to stay organized. That is, I remember the things I need to do and track. However, I've noticed a couple of issues with this plan.

First, there's only so much I can remember, and since work is where the money is, I will remember stuff at work in lieu of at home. So I can remember the details of my three different projects, but I can't remember that we need milk. Second, as I get more responsibility at work, there's more to remember. The sheer number of moving parts and integrated dependencies and so forth means it's harder to just remember everything. This was brought home to me painfully when I forgot an important deadline about 18 months ago. Just remembering everything wasn't going to work anymore. Third, as I wend my way through my 40s, I find that my brain isn't as limber at it once was. It still works generally fine. I don't have any medical concerns. But I'm less likely to have rapid recall of tons of facts. What I am better at instead is synthesizing facts into theory, pattern, and strategy... not a bad trade off, but only if I get better about logging the details I need to track.

After the missed deadline, I took stock and reevaluated the gaps in my current system and filled those gaps with techniques and tools. A lot of the rest of this is a little bit organization porn, I admit. But it's based on things that really work for me and may be helpful for you.

The Hierarchy of Organization
I tend to track items in the following general hierarchy:



Area
This is the high-level container that everything else live in. Examples include work, home, and so on. For me, there's enough difference in tools and processes (and requirements for information privacy) between the two that it makes sense to track them separately. For you, the areas might be Business/Personal, Family/Personal, Day Job/Business/Creative. Or everything just blends together and you don't really have distinct areas at all. What I don't recommend is separating Magic/Mundane, since you should be making every effort to integrate those into throughout your life.

Groups
Two different types:

Projects: As you well know by now, projects are driven by a common goal and require multiple different activities to complete. They also have at least one deadline. From delivering a new software release (work) to planning a vacation (home), projects have some kind of end goal or target and a deadline. We'll get back to the deadline issue in a bit because it was one of the flaws in my project tracking that I had to fix.

Operations: We touched on ops before when we discussed risk. An operation is a group of related activities with a common goal, but without a specific deadline. Operations are ongoing efforts. For example, Clean Garage is a project. The goal is to be able to park a car in your garage and the deadline is October, before the weather gets bad. Keep the Garage Clean, however, is an operation. It has a goal, but there's no end to it. It's ongoing and you have to keep up with it. Meeting the goal of the project isn't a one time event, but a status that's constantly being tracked or judged. This is why websites track uptime. Because getting up and running is important, but staying up and running is even more important. You can see how completing a project can spin off a regular maintenance operation that follows. So project Adopt a Dog is then followed by operation Dog Care (including training, vet visits, regular upkeep like baths and nail clipping, keeping them supplied and so on). When taking on a new project, you should always consider what the ongoing operations will be and compare that ongoing cost to the benefit of meeting the project goal.

Activities
Within these two groups are all the activities that need to get done in order to meet (or in the case of operations, keep meeting) the goal. I distinguish between types of activities because they have different characteristics that require different management. This hadn't been clear to me in the past, which is why I was having issues getting stuff done at home. For each of these items, I'm going to briefly note the solution I use, issues I've had in the past, and how to tell if this is a problem for you.

Events -- If it lasts a whole day or more and you can't schedule anything else... that's an event. This became especially important when I started traveling for work. The key to tracking events is advanced visibility. If I look at my regular calendar in the morning and see that I have a meeting at 1, that's usually not a big deal. But can you image waking up and realizing you need to be at the airport in half an hour? Yeah, not so much. Or more likely, I haven't forgotten a trip, but I forgot the trip when I scheduled another critical meeting, class, appointment, etc. At this point, that can happen months in advance.

This visibility is so critical that events are the only things that I actually track in multiple places (something I usually try to avoid). I note them on my Outlook calendar at work so that I appear unavailable when people try to schedule meetings. They also appear on our home calendars that we use to track household schedules. In addition, I track all major events on a vis-a-vis wall calendar in my office. That's so I can see availability many months in advance. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but in fact, I just hung my 2016 calendar so I can start to visualize next year's stuff as well. A non-electronic solution would just be the annual wall calendar. A monthly calendar doesn't work nearly as well because you only see this month (which means that by the end of the month, you are completely unprepared for what's next).

If you find you can never plan anything between all the classes, camps, trips, etc. going on in your household, this is where to focus your efforts.

Appointments -- An activity that includes a start and end time (duration), affects availability, and needs a reminder. From meetings at work, to your ritual on the full moon, to the typical Dr./Dentist kind of stuff, these are tracked on the same electronic calendars as above. No double-tracking required. A date book is a perfectly acceptable paper solution to this. One with day and time slots where you can see at least the current week all at once. If that datebook also includes all your events, you will never over schedule.

If you are always forgetting about appointments or meetings or constantly end up double-booked, this is the place to concentrate on.

Todos -- An activity with a rough timeframe (today, this morning, this week, etc,), no duration, doesn't affect availability, usually repeats, needs a reminder. These are items like give the dog a heartworm tablet, put the trash out (bi-monthly), make an offering to the spirits of your city, refill a prescription, etc. They don't really fit into a calendar slot like an appointment because they don't have a specific timeframe. But they do have a rough time they need to be completed by. They typically repeat and are infrequent enough that a reminder is necessary. These also include all the cyclical items in your PMPM workings, like regular reviews of your project plan, check-ins with stakeholders, and so on.

I tend to forget these things, so some kind of in-my-face appearance is critical. I don't want to stare at them every day (because I will train myself to ignore them and then never see them again), but need them to magically appear when the time comes. There are a host of tools and apps that work great for this kind of stuff and no reason to overthink it. Pick one that works for your platforms and allows you to get an email, txt, or phone reminder when they are due. If you prefer paper, then putting them in a side column in your date book works. You can mark them for a particular day or just for the week and then rewrite them into future weeks as your reminder. Or you can use the Getting Things Done tickler file method (Google for more on this).

Before I got a tool with reminders, I was always letting this kind of stuff slide. I mean, I don't stare at my calendar every minute of the day. I needed something that would poke me. If you keep losing track of your repeating activities, this is the place you need to improve.

Tasks -- An activity with no timeframe, unknown duration, no auto-repeat, and no reminder. If you make a list of all the small tasks you need to do to accomplish a big goal, there will be a ton of things you have to crank through. But while they may all have to be completed by a certain date, they don't each have to be completed on a particular date. This is the key difference from a todo.

I know this sounds like a subtle distinction, but it was totally screwing me up. Date driven tools like calendars didn't work because it wasn't like each item had an obvious day attached, let alone a timeframe. For tracking these the best tool is a good old fashioned checklist. Many of the todo-type tools and apps will also allow you to create checklists that don't have dates attached. And for paper, nothing beats a notebook where you write down everything you need to do and then check or strike them off. However, I found that an outliner worked really well for rapidly capturing items and then easily reordering and grouping them.

If you are having a hard time focusing on the things you need to get done to reach your goals, or if you are surprised when a deadline arrives and not everything is complete, this is the place you need to improve.

Deadlines
This was the big weakness of my previous project planning (hence the missed deliverable). Unlike operations (which tend to have repeating schedules), projects have one or more deadlines. Each deadline not only has a due date, but also contains a number of activities that have to be completed by that deadline. However because this date was in the future I had no way of "seeing" it coming. Here's where my system fell down.

Let's say you have a PMPM working with a six month duration. In order to accomplish the goal of the working, you need to complete a bunch of different activities. Some of those activities will have dates (like meetings) or timeframes (like todos), but plenty of others will just be tasks attached to the deadline. That deadline is far enough away in time that you can't really see it coming. It's easy to forget that it's out there, looming, until it gets close enough and then you're rushing around trying to finish everything at the last minute.

Calendars aren't very good at this sort of thing. They only show you the month or week or day ahead. And reminders don't help because, well, when do you remind yourself? Reminding yourself right before its due doesn't help. And reminding yourself right at the start doesn't do much good either. If it's an important deadline, you'll want to remind yourself every single day, but not in a way that's annoying or that will -- Pavlov like -- train you to ignore it. And checklists aren't very good either. After all, a deadline isn't a thing that you do and check off. It's a thing that you meet, by doing all the other components.

I chewed on this for a while (nothing will motivate you to focus on a weakness like having fucked up based on that weakness in the past) and came up with several ideas:

If you don't have many projects or deadlines, you can track it manually right in your PMPM planning write up. I talked a bit about this in the deeper content portion of project planning. So if you want more details, sign up  (it's even free!).

Another idea is to put the deadline on your annual wall calendar. This gives you visibility many months in advance, but the weakness is that it doesn't do anything to tie that deadline to the activities it contains. That means you risk thinking you met the deadline, but actually forgetting a component. It's also only works if you don't have too many deadlines.

Since I do have a ton of deadlines, I leveraged the outliner for that as well, and I have to say it really helped me keep much closer track of everything I needed to do. I should point out that this switch occurred before I took on a new and much more complex and demanding role and I'm sure I wouldn't have been as successful without it. I simply list all my deadlines in date order and then put all the tasks a level below. When a task requires a event, meeting, or todo, I schedule those things in their respective tools and then cross off the task. I can easily scan down the list of deadlines and see what's coming.

Conclusion
If you think this is all a bit insane, well there's a reason that not everyone is a project manager for a living. But ask yourself this: are your own personal projects any less important than those of your company? Are the initiatives and goals you set for yourself any less critical?

If you want to make changes in your life toward a goal -- and make them stick -- you will have to get organized. Flailing your way to success or happiness is rare -- like winning the lottery. If you'd like better odds than that, you will have to get your shit together. If you want to leverage magic to increase your odds even more, your shit needs to be even more together. Unlike a company, you can't just hire a someone like me to organize your stuff (well, you can, but it would probably be cost prohibitive -- if you have lots of cash and need organizational help, email me, I'd be happy to hire on as your personal consulting project manager).

The truth is that planning is easy (however esoteric it can seem to the uninitiated). Doing is what's hard.

Those of you on the deeper content list will be receiving a nifty set of Project Planning and Execution worksheets. For those of you who enjoy working on paper, these printables will allow you to document a charter, plan, and track execution activities. There's even a calendar for 2016 and a weekly activity tracker.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Antifragile, A Magical Introduction, Part Two (Antifragile Divination)

In Part One, I started a basic overview of the concept of antifragility. Reading that will make this make more sense.

The Antifragile Mindset
What kind of life do you want to have?

If your family comes from the US or Western Europe, you were probably raised to desire a stable life. Indeed a stable life is the promise of Western Democracy. To be able to withstand shocks and keep things the same (or on a modest arc of generational improvement AKA the American Dream) was what our grandparents and great-grandparents were working for. It's what many of us work for now. In fact, many of our current systems were designed for this goal and still operate that way: education, university, the free market, housing, social contracts like marriage and procreation, media.

Do you want a fragile life that will collapse under the slightest shock? Probably not. Most people wouldn't. However despite craving stability, many people still have crazy fragile lives. Why? Because the world of our antecedents doesn't exist anymore.

If you predict that the world still operates the way it used and that there will be less change and chaos in the future, then a stable life should be your goal and a stable life should be attainable.

However, if you think life is full of random change and chaos and predict that these characteristics will continue to increase, then you would want to work on making your life as antifragile as possible. A life that's antifragile gets stronger through chaos. It doesn't crumble (fragile) and it also doesn't stay the same (stable). It may even require a certain amount of chaos to function at peak efficiency. As you might expect, I'm firmly in this group.

In order to build a more antifragile life, you need to cultivate a particular mindset and a particular form of magic. The goal here is to identify areas of weakness in your sphere of influence and deal with them. This will touch on risk mitigation, but will also head into new territory.

Here are the basic steps: define your sphere, analyze your risk, increase your antifragility (grounded, focused, versatile, balanced), and shake things up. That's your executive summary right there.


1. Define your sphere of influence
I like the term household. I like what it means, I like where it came from, I like how it can flex and morph. Your household can be you and the place you currently crash. It can include your pets. It can include your spouse and 2.5 kids or your poly-amorous triad. It can include your step kids or your aging mother or your hetero life-mate (or homo life-mate). It can refer to your coven (even if you don't all live together) or lodge. It can be multiple things to multiple people. All the living beings in your life, who you have a compact with to support one another -- that's your household. That's where you need to focus. I need to highlight this because if you are the only one in your household who does any kind of magic, you still need to consider the needs of everyone else as well. And if you have a household full of magicians, you still need to coordinate your working to all be focusing on the same goals.

Beyond just your household, you have to focus in your community. And I don't mean the global village or social media here. I mean your physical, local, community. This is critical. I get that the whole world is a mess (and I just need to rule it... sorry). I get that there are people starving/dying/etc. in other countries. If you're called to help those people, that's awesome. However in terms of creating a more sustainable, antifragile life, you have to focus locally. Shop local, bank local, eat local. How your town is doing has a far greater impact on your day to day life than how Syria is doing. You should still care about Syria, a lot, since it's a flashpoint. But how you deal with uncertainty has more to do with whether the farmers at the local market know you.

2. Perform Black Swan Risk Analysis
There are things in your life that are pretty stable (your house -- particularly if you own, your car, a pair of shoes). They are designed to withstand shocks and are only really harmed by massive amounts of chaos (difference between a fender bender and a highway accident, a wind storm and an earthquake). You can't do much to change the nature of these things. However, you need to make sure you are mitigated against the biggest shocks, the ones that can turn the stable into fragile. This includes things like having insurance to cover your house and your car. Putting storm windows or snow tires on. Or having backups, like extra pairs of shoes so that if something traumatic happens (bad dog!) you can still leave the house.

There are other things in your life that are fragile (teacups, the current economy, traffic). Again, there's not much you can do to change the character of those things. For example, you can adjust your schedule to avoid traffic and use apps to dodge it (though, remember you are the traffic). This avoids the risk of getting stuck, but traffic itself is still very fragile (one little problem in the morning and things will just be screwed all day). You can put the teacup in the cabinet and never use it. That mitigates the risk, but even in the cabinet it's still fragile. You can sell the teacup and buy a plastic tumbler. This eliminates the risk. Or you can just decide to use your teacups anyway because the enjoyment is worth the fragility. This is accepting the risk, not in any way changing the teacup. As long as you have a backup cup, that's a perfectly acceptable option.  For more on basic risk management, check this post out.

Note: There's another option for risks in your life that isn't covered in any of the writing so far. It's an interesting and in itself seemingly risky technique for dealing with fragility. Basically, if you have a fragile tea cup... you smash it. More on this to come in future posts.

3. Increase antifragile hallmarks
There are other places in your life where you are already antifragile. Your body for example. A source of income that increases when things get crazy. Your skillset (if you cultivate it correctly). The more antifragile your household is, the better off you will be. So you need to cultivate the antifragile elements.

How to you make things in your life more antifragile? Well, the best way is to always make choices that support these antifragile indicators:

Organic as opposed to mechanized. Overly automated systems are highly fragile. However, human interaction is antifragile, thriving where the system breaks down. You want your house fragile? Smarten it up. Sure, it's fun changing the temperature from your phone, until suddenly it isn't. So even if you play with technology, you have to have manual backup systems in place. Internet of things, I'm watching you. Because if I have to start worrying about my fridge getting hacked, I've got too damn much to worry about. When you make decisions in your life ask whether there's a backup option. See what the non-tech version looks like. Your mindset should be that automation is interesting, but only until it breaks down.

Personal example: when I fly my phone will allow me to show my boarding pass. This is cool, but I still always print them out. Because the day the system goes down or your phone gets lost or runs out of batteries... you will want those organic copies.

Magical example: some of the most powerful magical experiences in my life are physical, juicy, messy, wholly organic. From giving birth (which I had the option of doing completely low-tech) to sex to digging in the dirt. Ivory tower occultism is fine, but if you want magic you can rely on no matter where you are, then you have to be able to get your hands dirty.

Local as opposed to non-local. All sustainability is local. As I said above, the more you can operate in your immediate area, the better. This means supporting the local economy, making local connections, and understanding your local environment. Imagine yourself in the center of an interconnected web. Changes closer to you have a bigger impact.

Personal example: we dropped our big bank and now bank through a local credit union. That money makes an impact in my local community in a very direct way. Interestingly the company I work for is publicly traded, but all the employees get stock and the owners are local. Those are two more ways that I bring money into the local economy. Of course some of our clients are international, and that can be fragile, but it's also a great way to pull money into the local community from outside.

Magical example: Portland is a rare city in that it has a city patroness. Portlandia watches over the city and I make occasional offerings and do work to help make the city strong. Also leaving roses on the sidewalk below her statue makes people think your'e fucking Bruce Wayne, which is kind of an awesome side benefit.

Organically and locally: these two are really about how grounded you are in the place where you live (the planet, your body, the Earth). Stay grounded and you will be more antifragile.




Small as opposed to large. Systems get more fragile as they scale. What works for a frontier town doesn't work for a city. What works for a small business doesn't work for a corporation. I get a newsletter from one of my favorite local family farms. In a couple of recent messages, she talked about how her and her husband were scaling back their chicken farming operations (organic, free range, heritage -- best chicken I've ever had). As their popularity had increased, they'd started selling to local restaurants and groceries. Sounds great, right? Except that they'd done the ROI and discovered that 80% of the work was going into these large accounts, but was bringing in less than 20% of the profit. The Pareto principle at work right there. So they are scaling back, getting smaller, and focusing only on selling to the the local individuals who they have a relationship with through their farm store, farm stand, etc. To highlight, this isn't just to make their lives easier of for some personal ethical principle. This will make them more money for less work.

Personal example: we've been down-sizing our living space for the past 8 years, which has the nice side benefit of forcing you to have less stuff.

Magical example: in doing practical magic, focus your goals. Compress what you want into a small package, like a diamond. Keep the boundaries tight, be well-defined, and don't scope creep. You don't want 10 million dollars and a sports car and a big house and, and, and... no, you want prosperity in your life, to both stabilize your base and maximize your options.

Local and small: these two are completely anathema to the US model of capitalism and it takes a real shift in thinking to absorb them. Bigger is not better. Global is not better. -- or rather they may be "better" by some financial or practical metric, but they are also MORE FRAGILE. This is about how centered and focused you are. Stay focused and you will be more antifragile.



Agile as opposed to rigid. Agile in this context means flexible, not fast. And the opposite of agile here isn't slow, but rigid. Some very rigid things move very quickly (habitat destruction for example). And some agile processes can and should be slow (like building a flexible career skill set). Agile is your ability to change in response to changing circumstances. Throw tons of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. Try five different ways of accomplishing the same goal, and don't invest too heavily in any one of them. Make good plans and then keep adjusting them as you go. The more agile your life, the better you can weather and even benefit from shocks.

Personal example: we moved to four difference states in order to grow our careers and take advantage of better economic conditions. When I compare my life with those who stayed in my hometown, there's no contest (course I got nothing on Gordon, who's truly intercontinental).

Magical example: when I was needing do to that major uncrossing work, I spun up a huge multi-part effort. I banished, cleansed, consecrated, and purified. There was chanting, smudging, shielding, circling, and grounding involved. I used charms, oils, incense. I called on Deities, spirits, ancestors. After all that, something had to work... and it did.

Time-tested as opposed to new. Another one that flies in the face everything society teaches us. New things aren't necessary bad, mind you. They are just risky because their fragility isn't tested. Something that's been around a long time has had the kinks worked out. We're pretty hardcore technophiles, so I get the appeal of new shiny toys. However we've learned the hard way not to be too early adopters. Be suspicious of all new technologies, particularly ones that impact time-tested systems in an unknown way. Industrial food, I'm looking at you.

Personal example: in keeping with St. Taleb's mandate, I don't drink anything that people weren't drinking 500 years ago. However, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy inventing new cocktails. The goal is to allow experimentation (in keeping with the agile principle above), but just with a grounding in those items that have been tested by time.

Magical example: of course you can take this literally and only work from old grimoires and so forth. There's already a strong antiquarian strain in most magic. But again I think this is missing the mark. Experimentation is good and there are plenty of new techniques that are worth trying out. However, the good ones are usually all based in common and very ancient symbolism and properties or magical laws (like contagion). So when you try new things, base them in time-tested principles and they will be more likely to work.

Agile and time-tested: these two are interesting because at first they might seem to clash. But if you think of it in terms of experimentation within the scope of those things that are proven to work, it makes a lot of sense. They are both about being flexible, but intelligently so. Stay versatile and you will be more antifragile.


Embracing both extremes. This is the barbell strategy in action. The idea is to actively seek out the extremes and embrace both, avoiding the middle. This was discussed extensively in part one, so I won't repeat here. There are two parts to this. First, choosing to embrace both extremes at the same time (the classic example is taking a boring day job and starting a wildly risky side concern). Or if you have $1000 to invest, you put $900 in cash and invest $100 helping your friend buy online adds for a addictive new app. The goal is to avoid the middle. The Second part is balancing areas where you are already over-exposed on the extremes by focusing on the other. Maybe you have an extremely stable day job where your skills aren't readily transferable (you've worked for the same old-school bookkeeping firm for a decade). You balance that by staring up some crazy side dream like taking acting classes, getting into professional poker playing, or deciding write a novel.

Personal example: look around. This blog is a counterweight to my mundane corporate day job.

Magical example: So your house is filled with health and prosperity charms? Time to whip out some sigils for crazy luck and wonderful adventures and invigorating synchronicities.

By embracing the extremes, the goal is not stasis or stability or equality. No, you have to keep dynamic equilibrium. It's an active process of balancing the positive and negative risks against one another. That's why 90% cash and 10% wild speculation works. It's in balance in terms of the risk. In order to be antifragile, you have to balance (verb, not noun).


4. Shake things up
This all sounds good, but there's a catch. Things which are antifragile not only benefit from instability, but they often require it to function at peak performance. When you make a commitment to make your life more antifragile, you are also making a commitment to embracing a certain amount of shock and instability. For example:
  • Your body needs irregular cycles to run correctly. It needs times of stress followed by times of total relaxation. Times of gluttony followed by fasting. Times of overexertion followed by physical laziness. It needs you to burn the midnight oil and then nap all day in a hammock. Turn, turn, turn, dammit. Chronic anything is bad for your health. A regular diet and sleep schedule are as bad as having a consistently bad diet or being regularly sleep deprived.
  • We all know that the stable career (where you go to work for a company after school and then retire there after 40 years) is long dead. Having skills that work across multiple disciplines is one way to be antifragile. Another is a career that does better when things go wrong (the medical field comes to mind). An antifragile career is one that seeks out change. Even if you stay at the same job, you should always be on the lookout for new opportunities and responsibilities. If you have to learn a new skill to take on a different task or role, be the first one to say "me, pick me!" And if the chance comes along to try something new, take it.
Change generates experience / experience expands options / options support antifragility / antifragility requires change. You have to try new things, go new places, change things up. This will allow you to have more experiences which will then increase your options. This makes you more antifragile. And being antifragile means you need to change things up in order to feed or strengthen that state. So it's a nice self-feeding circle.

The Antifragile Divination
In the Black Swan Divination, the first step was to identify the major areas of your life (family, career, etc.) and label your reading area with those labels. This reading starts the same way. The goal then was to identify potential black swans, however now the goal is to help you identify what you should be doing to be more antifragile in those areas. I found laying three cards for each area gives a good overview, but let your intuition guide you. The first card might tell you to stop with one and move to the next area. As always, any woo you'd like to do is up to you -- the reading fits into any system or practice.

OK, results. If you see reversed cards here, read them as what NOT to do (which might be an important warning). Otherwise you are looking for guidance on how to be more antifragile, which is very different from just being more stable. If you just did a black swan reading and one of those cards comes up again in the same area, pay close attention because that area may need to be a priority for you.

  • Just as before, if court cards come up, it may be that there's someone you should talk to or listen to on the subject. Maybe in person and maybe through media.
  • For minor arcana cards, look first to the suit. Swords refer to enhancing your focus, cutting away the things that are extraneous or overcomplicated. This would mean applying the principles of being small and local. Pentacles suggest you ground yourself both by being more local, but also organic. Could you be overautomated in that area? Cups suggest being more versatile. Water* is a good metaphor for both agility and the consistency that comes from working within time-tested principles. Wands suggest the energy required to get to that point of dynamic equilibrium, keeping extremes in balance.
  • For major arcanum, consider the role of spirits, fate, core beliefs, magic already in play, Deities, and life lessons.
* Note, I'll be talking more about water and antifragility soon. I got some amazing insight on this from one of my deeper content readers (who has kindly kept me updated on their PMPM working). More soon.

So to wrap up, being more antifragile is a great goal. However it's not always easy to see how to reach it. By focusing on the principles of being more focused, grounded, versatile, and constantly balancing, you can make choices and perform magic that will move you to a more antifragile state.

For a limited time, I will perform a Antifragile Divination for any readers for free, in order to field test the technique. 

I've move into a more output-oriented space again and posts should be more frequent. I'm also suffering from a combination of jet lag and insomnia (it's 10pm at home, so why can't I sleep here?). It's been a crazy week, with rituals in hotel rooms and omens straight from the old country.

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