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By Baroness Tamar the Gypsy, Deputy Guildmistress

The novice soothsayer may wonder why a simple fortuneteller would need protection from anything, except perhaps a powerful client whose fortune was not to his liking. After all, reading the future does not involve harming anyone else. If such a novice continues to study methods of action without considering possible reactions, personal experience may answer the question. Only one in several million people turns out to be the sort of natural Master who can safely open to higher levels without overt protections; even one of these will experience misleading and potentially dangerous influences while a novice. The rest of us should use the sort of common sense and simple caution that would be expected of a beginner at water-skiing, mountain climbing, or any other dangerous sport. Beginners wear protective gear because they desperately need it; experts continue to wear it because they know it is sensible. The expert is one who has tried several different sorts and knows the benefits and drawbacks of each type. Only the daredevil (!) works without it.

One commonly reported problem for the novice soothsayer is that feeling that "someone is looking over my shoulder" - but there's no one physically there. During a reading, the reader opens up to the client's energies. Doing so will send out a ripple effect on that energy level. Other sensitives who "listen" on that level will notice that something is being done; they sometimes choose to eavesdrop in order to assess the ability level of the psychic doing the reading. In many cases such eavesdropping is entirely benign, done out of curiosity. A prankster may send a mild psychic jolt. However, in some parts of the country, groups exist which have taken a territorial attitude toward any psychic development and have actually harassed anyone they could identify as an independent student. In more neutral areas it depends on what sort of work you are doing.

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A person experimenting with an exercise given by Aleister Crowley felt the observation of others, and within a week was contacted by some people he felt were just not his type. Apparently they agreed, because there was no further contact - but he also stopped using Crowley's books. This sort of eavesdropping can be blocked for practical purposes with the erection of a mental barrier around you and your client. The precise way in which you erect such a barrier will vary according to your belief system. Generally, the simpler the better, so long as the method is impressive enough to bring your belief system into operation.

At this point, I digress slightly onto the topic of how it all works, since in order to make something work you have to believe that it works (on some level - see below).

There are thousands of religions or cults with wildly opposing views; all have ways of approaching soothsaying, and each way works for its believers. The reason is that, contrary to "common sense", solid matter does not exist except in our minds. What we perceive as solid matter (including our bodies) is merely very slow-moving energy. The universe is quite genuinely a figment of our collective imaginations. Emphasis on collective. If enough of us agree to a change in the rules, the rules change.

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The universe is a game we play with our minds. So fine - just figure out what rules you believe in, and start from there to work out rituals. Since the more strongly people believe in a rule, the stronger it is, rules that are embedded in your cultural background are likely to work well for you. New rules will work better if they don't conflict with your embedded, subconscious rules. In this culture, most of us have the same basic beliefs about how anything psychic or "magic" works, once we get beyond the simplistic "it works because it's magic".

It is not necessary to believe in a system to observe it accurately. Any number of modern fantasy writers have set down the most commonly believed rules of magic for our culture as a background for their tales. For instance, the law of Contagion: two things which were once in contact will continue to interact when separated - so your hair and fingernail clippings can still affect you. The law of Similarity: two things which look alike will act alike - so a wax doll that looks like you can affect you. If the clippings are in the wax, then two laws are in operation at once; thus, the voodoo doll.

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Although they had no belief in the validity of magic, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt did a fine job with the basic rules in The Incompleat Enchanter and its sequels. A newer writer, Lyndon Hardy, did well in Master of the Five Magics and extremely well in Secret of the Sixth Magic. Ursula LeGuin has explicated the issue of responsibility in A Wizard of Earthsea and her other stories in that universe. (Ed. Note: You may also want to read Randall Garret's Lord Darcy books, such as Too Many Magicians and Lord Darcy Investigates)

One advantage of fantasy is that the author can demonstrate far-reaching and long-term effects that would be very hard to observe in a single lifetime. A disadvantage of course is that the author may twist the rules for the benefit of his storyline.

If you prefer nonfiction, there are plenty of seriously written books on the topic of magic, however you choose to spell it. Isaac Bonewitz's book, Real Magic, has some very clear thinking on the topic. Robin Wood's book, When Why If, is also good reading.

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So discover your rules, choose those you want to practice with, and play with them. Play is the operative word. Here is another possible source of trouble for not only the novice but the unbelieving jokester. Although belief that the method will work is necessary, it need not be conscious belief, and the sort of temporary suspension of disbelief you indulge in when, for example, playing D&D is very likethe smooth, flowing attitude that makes things work. Beware of playfully acting out an incantation from a book. It is the semi-serious, hokey, over-acted dramatic reading that is reported to have produced unwanted results. Again, it is a case of opening up without any realization that something may be waiting outside. If a spell or whatever seems interesting enough to be read aloud, it is probably written in a belief system that corresponds to yours, and your subconscious mind can take it seriously. I particularly warn against the Necromancer and other such cheap commercial "spellbooks."

There is another reason for making your own rituals according to your own belief system. Your ritual will then suit you perfectly. Even an author with good intentions cannot guess all of your own quirks in a book intended for thousands of readers. The creative energy you put into your own work will strengthen its effectiveness, as it becomes a work of art.

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Besides the books recommended above, and other fantasy works, there are serious books of protective information. One such is Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Protection, (c)1982 by Draja Mickaharic, published by Samuel Weiser.

Some common ideas on protections follow. A good basic routine will include a clearing and sealing of the area against unwanted influences, while allowing wanted ones to enter with your permission. This is obviously easier if you are in a room, but can be done outdoors too. Rooms or locations used regularly can be sealed with long-term methods, which need only be renewed at long intervals. For instance, a room can have the so-called Seal of Solomon (now more commonly associated with David) - the six-pointed star in a circle - marked on or into all surfaces (walls, floor, ceiling) and at all openings. (If you want to be less obvious, you can use water, oil, or the same color paint as the background.)

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Go On to Part Two