Everyone speaks about visualisation, and most books about magic imply it is necessary for magical work. Yes, it is; but I consider the word itself rather misleading. Good image making in the mind doesn't utilise only vision: it uses all the senses to whatever extent one can work with them. For some people, this will be a very visual experience, but for others it may be largely feeling or auditory. There are many books that give one elementary exercises in painting pretty pictures in the mind. In this article, I'm reaching out to those who may find that vision is not be their strongest inner sense.

Personally, I tend to get splashes of colour and a lot of energy flowing through my body, and a "knowing" what the areas of colour actually represent....and a sense of what the people I interact with are saying...even if I don't hear actual words. I'm sure there are as many variations on this as there are practitioners.

So the exercises I'm going to offer here give you a chance to train all your inner senses...and to define which ones are strongest and most useful for you.

Let's start simple; try eating an orange:

    See the orange as clearly as you can. Maybe you see just the colour and shape, or maybe you see each little dimple. Push yourself...try to see the green pip on the end. Feel the heaviness of it in your hands. Feel the rough surface of the peel. Can you feel the lifeforce in the orange? Do you feel anything in your body as you construct this you salivate or get puckered?

    Start to peel the orange. See as much of this as you can. See the peel opening up...see the white underpeel inside. Feel the action of peeling in your hands, the resistence and the easing of that resistance as the peel gives way. Feel the sting in your nose and eyes as the juices in the peel spray. Hear the little tearing sounds as the peel and underpeel rip away. Smell the oils in the peel. Lick your lips and see if you taste any of them. Are you salivating yet?

    Finish peeling the orange. Can you focus enough to have a good memory at all times of how much is peeled and how much is yet to go? Do you see/feel/sense the pile of peelings as you drop them? Do you hear them land?

    Now, pull the segments apart. See them come apart...see the membrane peel off one, and see the pulpy bags of juice inside if you can. Feel the tearing away, and the burning on your fingers as the juice runs down them. Feel your tongue go out to lick your fingers. Smell and taste the orange. You've gotta be salivating right now...even if your just reading and not doing the exercise!

    Feel the orange in your mouth...feel the juices gush out as you bite down. Taste the juice. Feel your tongue move and your throat muscles contract as you swallow. Feel what happens to your energy as you take this living, vibrant food into your body.

    Eat as much of the orange as you wish and then sit quietly.

Think back on your experience and play it back in your memory. Which senses were strongest? Which were most detailed? Which have the best memory? Were there any senses you didn't get any input from at all? If you do the exercise again, can you make those senses more alive, or will they need more time?

You may, at this point, wish to look at specifically training the senses that you identify as your strongest and weakest. You can do this by picking up simple objects around you, observing them carefully with the sense involved, be that sight, sound, or touch, then putting the object away, closing your eyes, and trying to image-ine what you perceived while actively observing.

The next level in your training, when you are ready, is to attempt more complex tasks in your mind. Perhaps baking cookies:

    See the ingredients and utensils on your kitchen counter. Run the flour through your fingers, smell the chocolate chips, hear the spoon hit the bowl as you cream the butter and feel the spoon in your hand...feel the change in texture as the butter smooths out. Feel the chill on the eggs and hear them crack...see and hear them sloosh into the bowl and watch/feel/hear the gloosh as you start to mix them in. Feel the dryness of the flour dust in your nose as you start to mix it in...

    I'm skipping steps for the sake of bandwidth can image all the steps as you go...make a game of seeing how much detail you can see, feel, smell, taste, and hear. Don't forget prying the lid off the baking powder can, or the wonderful sliding feel of the chocolate chips in the bag. Smell the chocolate...ahh...and feel a chip in your fingers as you pop it in your mouth...crunch down on it and feel it break over your teeth...feel it soften as it melts in the warmth of your mouth. Salivating yet? See the chips gradually mixing into the batter....

    Feel the warmth of the oven heating behind you and the wonderful stickiness on your fingers as you swipe the dough off the spoon onto the cookie sheets. Taste that bit of dough you lick off your fingers...feel your tongue on your finger...

    And smell that wonderful rich chocolatey aroma as the cookies bake...and take a moment to explore the feelings this scent wakens in you...and the memories...

    Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

An important type of work at this level is to perform a simple ritual completely in your mind.

    See/feel/hear/know all the steps of preparing your altar, pouring the water, scraping away the wax drippings, washing your body and cleansing your aura by whatever means you use, then lighting the candles...smell the sulphur of your matches?....really see all the parts of the flames and feel their warmth. Smell the incense. Take a deep breath and feel yourself ground and run your energy. Feel your athame or wand in your hands and feel/see yourself casting your circle. Really see and feel the energy you put around you, both of the circle you cast and the elements you call. And then go on to whatever you do in the ritual.

This is a very empowering level of visualisation, because once you can do these preparatory steps for ritual in your mind with some depth and clarity, you can do whole rituals in your mind while other people see you do nothing but lie on a towel in the sun.

Concurrently with these exercises, you will want to start making images in your mind of different places and times. A beach in the winter at sunset...with the pink of the sun reflected off the frozen sheet of water left on the sand. A mountain meadow covered in morning dew, and the insects at work in the flowers...maybe even the faeries that open them in the morning. A cave at any time, with water running down the walls and the echoes of your breathing. A campfire in the deep woods on a moonless night. The more clearly and fully you can create these images for yourself, with all your senses, the better you will be able to journey when that becomes your goal.

After you can feel/see/sense/know actions and places, the next part of the adventure is to go places and speak to the "people" you meet there. Psychologists might call these figures archetypes or aspects of the self. Even if they are no more than fictional characters, they often offer some sort of wisdom, skill, experience, or knowledge that you will benefit from learning about.

Even if you can't see the details of their faces as clearly as you might, you might get a sense of their mode of dress and know something about them; if you don't actually "hear" their words, you can get a feel for the emotions they are radiating and the "sense" of what they say; if you don't feel their handshake or hug, you might hear the love in their voice or feel it radiating from them. Whatever inner senses you have found and developed will help you know what they are offering.

A popular way of doing this type of work is to step into the pictures on your favourite Tarot cards. Study the picture until you can see it when you close your eyes. Then step into it and wait on the threshold until you can see, feel, hear, smell, and experience the atmosphere and the place. Then let the character(s) in the card come and speak to you. If it is a minor arcana card, you will probably want to ask them about the situation they are in. Ask them what they have learned by living through it. Ask them how their lessons might be relevant to your life. If it is a major arcana card, the character is likely an archetype, and you might ask about their energies and wisdom, and how cultivating these qualities would help you in your life.

Sense their answers in whatever way you can. I like to tell the story of my conversations and adventures directly into a tape recorder. If you don't do this, you will want to write down as many details as you remember as soon as you possibly can.

After this, the work can go many possible ways. If you are very visual, you may build a library where you can pull books off the shelves and read what you need to know. If you are very auditory, you may create a comfortable meeting place where you can ask you spirit helpers to meet and speak with you. If you sense energies, you might build a healing temple where you can lie on a table and have the energies you need to experience flow into you. You will probably find an idea that appeals to you in your reading somewhere.

Some people work with angels, some with spirit animals which they may call totems. Some people call on the Devas of the plants or on elementals. Some have guides they meet and call upon at need. Some sit and talk with their helpers and some call upon them for protection as they "journey" through the landscape within/without themselves seeking the spirits that cause illness or those who can remedy a problem. Some create elaborate temples in their inner planes and go there to perform magic and summon spirit helpers. You will find the way of working that appeals to your temperament and uses your strengths.

Certainly, one of the most basic forms of magic is to make an image for yourself of what you would like to see happen...seeing/feeling/hearing/sensing/knowing all the little the date on the calender, the amount of whatever is involved, how it comes to you and how it makes you feel, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Put the strength of your need and longing behind your prayers for this to be, and you have a very simple and powerful piece of magic.

It all starts with making your mental images as clear to all your senses as you possibly can.

Blessed Be

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text and design copyright Willowsong 1997