What prompted this today? Well, I was meeting with a couple of colleagues this past weekend to assist with an issue and during the necessary divination, I got a very strong push to mention to the lead spiritworker “tell X (our client) about personal concerns.” Neither she nor I could figure out why this would be necessary but she took the lead and broke it down for our client and to our horror, we realized that this was new information for X. Since neither my friend nor I can remember when we didn’t know about the hazards of personal concerns, we were shocked and I resolved right then and there to write something, however brief, on it.
I actually wish, in retrospect, that I’d covered this more in depth in my book (“Spiritual Protection”). It’s such an ingrained thing, such an integral part of the awareness that one develops working within a traditional House or within a magical system like hoodoo that I think many of us just assume that it’s common knowledge. I certainly did. I guess it just goes to show that the old adage holds true: don’t assume. You make an ass out of U and an ass out of ME. gah.
I suppose I should start by clearly defining what exactly personal concerns are. I break them down into first tier and second tier.
First tier personal concerns include blood, menstrual blood, semen, hair, pubic hair, spit, snot, and nail clippings.
Second tier personal concerns include foot track dust, signatures, writing, even articles of clothing.
Jewelry that is commonly worn, to my mind, lies somewhere between the two.
Guard these things with your life. Literally. There is a law of magic called the “Law of Contagion.” In short it states that what was once part of you remains part of you. That means that items like this create a powerful link to you. In the hands of even a mediocre magic user this can be devastating. If one gets his or her hands on your personal concerns, especially first tier personal concerns, essentially, to be quite idiomatic, that person can make you their bitch. They can own you. They can hurt you. They can damage your health, relationships, and your luck. They can make you absolutely ill and miserable. It’s not unthinkable, given some of the traditional uses of personal concerns, that this could even lead to death. …in the hands of a *very* skilled worker. A link forged in this way is extremely difficult to break or counter.
The solution? Don’t leave your personal concerns lying around. Here’s an example for the women reading this. When I travel to a friend or colleague’s house and I happen to be menstruating, unless I am 110% that I’m in absolutely safe space, I take a bag with me and I bring my used sanitary pads home to dispose of – and I may do it anyway even if I AM in safe space. I don’t leave them in random trash cans. Why? Because some practitioners are not averse to picking them up and storing them away just in case one needs to do a magical smack down on a person in the future. I’ve done this. I’ve also randomly collected hair from the hair brush of a person who was being particularly vexing. I just asked to use the toilet and when I was there, took a bit from her brush. Did I use it? No, but I took it and kept it tucked safely away just in case I had need to do so in the future. I also keep several of my partner’s used condoms on ice in my freezer. Consider it old time life insurance.
I don’t do this with any malicious intent, mind you. I do it as a matter of course. Because life is uncertain and my tradition is a practical one. I will probably never, ever need to use this (though it could be used in consensual fertility or health workings too), but I’m pragmatic. This is not unusual. This is the way many of us (maybe even most of us) in traditional Houses think. It’s automatic and deeply ingrained. The rules and expectations are very, very different once you get rid of the new age bullshit.
I remember many, many years ago attending a Heathen gathering…a weekend gathering wherein we were celebrating the Summer solstice. I had a friend with me who had been raised in one of the ATRs. She came and got me a few hours after we arrived and had settled in and she was very, very agitated. She took me to the kitchen where there was food out, groceries, etc. No one was guarding the kitchen. She was appalled: in an ATR House, the kitchen is never, EVER left unguarded. Why? Oh honey, the things I can do with food and a bit of my own personal concerns. It’s one of the most basic ways to bring someone under your control.
The upshot of all of this is MIND YOUR JUNK! I’ve noticed more than once that the average Pagan tends to be all over the place. I’ve seen it with colleagues and students time and time again: they’re unmindful of personal concerns. They leave bits of themselves, clothing, used tissues, hair ties, etc. etc. all over the place heedlessly. Combine this with the unconscious attitude of cultural superiority and white privilege that one also so often sees with Neo-Pagans and there’s a huge potential for a world of hurt when these folks start engaging with proper indigenous Houses, or with old-school magic users.
I find this is one of the most difficult things to hammer into students. It’s not a cultural awareness with which we grow up. This is one of those areas where one has to become fluent in new cultural mores because once upon a time, these were our cultural mores too – I have no doubt that old school pre-Christian Heathen vitki and saed-workers were every bit as …pragmatic; in fact, check out some of the AS charms. They’re suspiciously like some of the stuff you’ll find in Southern hoodoo. What it comes down to in the end is what I’ve said in my book repeatedly: an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Really. Especially when personal concerns are involved. Of everything one could learn about magic, to my mind, this is the most important. Be aware of yourself, your junk, every bit of what is connected to you. Guard your territory and that begins with yourself.