In the last few articles we have looked at the physical basis of self healing on the physical plane through diet, exercise, and ways of using Chi, or vital energy. This is because many followers of the Pagan Path seem to jump straight to the magick option when wanting to improve health or heal themselves rather than look at their eating habits or lack of exercise. Also how their body works is something of a mystery to many people so it helps to understand some of the ways that using healing techniques, including magick, can affect their physiology. It helps if any medical personnel are involved, such as a doctor or a dentist, that you can explain some of the possible physiological mechanisms behind the techniques you are using. “I’m using Psychoneuroimmunology to help stimulate my immune system” or “I’m using visualization techniques to help manage the pain, and stimulate my immune system so that I recover more quickly from my procedure” carry a lot more meaning to a doctor than: “I’m doing a spell to heal faster”
Complimentary therapies are becoming more popular in Western medical systems as doctors and nurses have experiences with them. Also many traditional and holistic therapies have professional bodies that have run clinical trials to provide evidence-based data that help show ‘conventional’ practitioners that the healing systems they are using are valid. In the UK many therapists have formal and informal links with the National Health Service, and in many hospitals nurses qualified in reflexology are permitted to practice it on their patients. Some hospitals are also allowing private complimentary practitioners to work on their clients when they are in hospital, it’s particularly popular in maternity units. In the US complimentary practices come under the umbrella of integrative medicine programs, such as the one at St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima, Ohio.
When doing self healing most people rely on visualization and guided meditation, which is fine as long as you can consciously visualise. However there are a significant number of people who cannot do so, which means other methods must be found for them. One of the most effective is a system called Autogenic Training which works on internal dialogue directed at each part of the body in turn. In the beginning this is used to induce a state of profound relaxation but, in later stages, can be used in effective self-therapy. Even the simple phrase “my hands and feet are getting warmer” can, if the body responds by making the hands warmer by dilating the blood vessels, be a highly effective technique for counteracting poor circulation in the hands. It can also help counteract some of the aspects of Raynaud's phenomenon/disease by encouraging normal circulation. This warming of the hands technique can also be used for mitigating the many forms of migraine that are caused by blood flow issues in the brain by redirecting any excess blood volume into the hands lessening or stopping the dilation of the blood vessels in the brain that can lead to it.
Memory can also be used to great effect, especially if you practice the art of the memory palace mentioned in an earlier article. Most people use memory palaces as a purely visual skill, but a more effective technique is to use all the senses to enhance the information and enable it to be used in more than one way. One technique that might be known to some readers is the one outlined in Thomas Harris’s book “Hannibal” where Hannibal Lecter uses the memory of the cool marble statue in his memory palace to sooth pain from injuries inflicted on him. This is a technique that is very useful for people who, although they cannot remember visually, can recall smells, tastes, and sensations – or lack of them. Even if you have therapeutic hypnosis for pain management the preparatory talk is aimed at finding times when the client lost feeling in their body through cold or pressure, such as when being in the snow or slowing the blood flow to the leg by kneeling or crossing their legs. By accessing these times when the client is entranced they can be highly effective in aiding them to lessen, mask, or remove pain.
Now that we have begun to look at altered states of consciousness, sometimes called “trance” we enter a field where people have many ideas of what the term actually means. The full exploration of this subject will have to wait for another time but, for now, a working explanation is “a deeply focused state of inward concentration, bypassing the critical faculty”. This state of mind helps activate the body to heal through mechanisms outlined in previous articles, aids in focusing the Chi, and can open the gates to healing from other realms. Interestingly, depth of trance does not equal more effective healing. Excellent examples of this are the wart charming techniques practiced by traditional Witches and Healers in the UK who would ‘buy’ warts for a small sum, sometimes adding the chant:
“I buy this wart today.
Not to keep but to throw away.”
The wart would usually vanish shortly afterwards or, at the very latest, a few days. Psychically this would be put down to subconsciously activating the body’s natural healing abilities through suggestion. However in a book about Cornwall’s White Witches there is an account of a gypsy ‘buying’ a woman’s wart from her husband without her knowledge and, in five days, it had vanished* ; An excellent example of practical magick.
Formal hypnosis approaches the removal of warts by having the person either imagine them becoming warm and dispersing, or visualising the blood flow to them stopping so that they wither and die. A similar process was used by Dr. Albert Mason in1951 to help a patient suffering from Ichthyosis, a type of genetic skin disease that causes hard masses to grow in lumps and layers all over the body. Using a variation of the wart removal technique he told his patient that all the “warts” were going to fall off his left arm and, in five, days the hard layers fell off revealing normal skin underneath. In ten the arm was completely clear from shoulder to wrist. Although this seemed reasonable to Albert it came as something of a shock to the other doctors as Ichthyosis is supposedly impossible to treat and even skin grafts hadn’t helped this particular patient.
Now that you have some insight as to how visualisation and magick can help you attain and maintain better health all that remains is to remind you to use these techniques sensibly. They are no substitute for ‘mainstream’ medical care when someone has a serious disease, injury, or medical condition. You don’t want to be an embarrassing story on the news as the crazy Pagan who died, or ended up with a serious injury, rather than see a doctor or go to the hospital. However used with common sense magick, visualisation, and trancework to improve your health can be a valuable part of your Pagan practice.
* “White Witches; A Study of Charmers” by Rose Mullins ISBN 0953382513 page 29