“It takes more energy to frown than it does to smile” – Bill Hicks
It is a common misconception in the realm of occult study that there is no room for humor. After reading many long-winded passages of kabbalistic lore or complex invocations of ancient deities humor has a funny way of getting lost in the mix. And of course there is a time and place for serious invocation. But religion, spirituality and humor are not mutually exclusive Concepts. In my learning of the mysteries, I’ve found an absence of humor can actually be the very cause of those imbalances the magician is out to set right. Sacred humor is all but lost in much of modern magick and spirituality. There is a deep hidden mystical aspect to finding humor within oneself. And so what is it, and how can we access this and include it in our spiritual practice? I’d like to talk about sacred humor, trickster energy, and how we can bring this into our spiritual life to create transformation. Following this we will talk about different methods to incorporate humor into your practice.
Examples abound within spiritual literature. One Zen koan goes a monk asked Tozen when he was weighing some flax, “What is Buddha?” Tozan replied “This flax weighs three pounds.” He achieves enlightenment. Aleister Crowley, that most complex and yet deceptively humorous magician, once wrote “since all theories of the universe are absurd it is better to talk in the language of one which is patently absurd, so as to mortify the metaphysical man.” Even Don Juan, Carlos Castaneda’s famous Shaman teacher of the Mexican Mysteries, was known to roll around on the ground laughing hysterically at everything much to the annoyance of a young Castaneda. The Lakota of north america have the Heyoka, that sacred trickster that is considered the “opposite to nature.” He is the Paradox of existence and the reverse of all things. He functions as a mirror to social rules. In the tarot, the fool, commonly depicted as a jester blindly stepping off a mountainside, exists as a symbol of ignorance of the world that surrounds him. Yet within this image is innocence capable of cultivating ultimate truths and transformation. And then there is the real life concept of the court jester, who by their sheer honesty were rumored to have been able to speak freely to the monarch without finding themselves thrown in the dungeon or beheaded. And how is it that comedians especially in the modern-day seem to be the only ones capable of telling the truth?
Shakespeare had regularly utilized the archetype of the fool. In his play As You Like It, Touchstone the court jester says “the fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” Shakespeare worked deeply with comedy in his plays. It was the sugar to sweeten up the bitter truths and tragedies hidden within. These plays were reflections of the human condition and the absurdity of it all. It is by bringing our awareness to the humor that is hidden amongst some of the most profound writings that we must find our influence. In the major arcana of the tarot, it is only as the fool blindly takes that step over the side of the mountain that they are transmuted into the magician. Humor is alchemy.
The 1960s saw a return of sacred humor. Discordianism and the Church of the Sub-Genius, both being parodies of religion, had found a following. In time they both grew to become (semi) legitimate spiritual paths that embraced the absurd. It is written in that most holy book the Principia Discordia, “Magicians, especially since the gnostic and Qabalah influences, have sought higher consciousness through the assimilation and control of universal opposites – good/evil, positive/negative, male/female, etc. But due to the steadfast pomposity of ritualism inherited from the ancient methods of the shaman, occultists have been blinded by what is perhaps the two most important pairs of apparent or earth-plane opposites: order/disorder and serious/humorous.” Humor is the antidote to fear. If you can laugh in the face of the devil, he will not have control over you.
The trickster energy has a funny way of revealing itself. In one particularly powerful indoor medicine ceremony I had attended. During a moment of heightened emotion, we listened as one of our sisters sat before a fire asking for guidance, lamenting her feelings of being lost in the world of darkness, crying and praying for change. At that very moment all the lights in the room suddenly turned on in a blaze of glory. We all turn and see that someone who was so absorbed in her prayer had accidentally leaned against the wall hitting the light switch! We turn back to the crying woman and she begins laughing loudly exclaiming, “I’ve seen the light!” The trickster had shown up and just as quickly transmuted the energy into something positive. All things happen for a reason, and sometimes that reason is just to lighten up the mood.
“Laughing can banish any and all demons” – Grant Morrison
Banishing with Laughter
So, how does humor play into a magical practice? The first method to utilize is banishing through laughter. This is particularly common in chaos magick groups. One begins closing their eyes and smiling to themselves. After a few seconds allow a few giggles to escape from you. Continue laughing louder and more powerfully. In time you will find yourself laughing loudly to absolutely nothing except for the fact that you are laughing at absolutely nothing. This practice works great in group settings. One can use banishing to open or close a ceremonial work, grounding the energy in a positive way. This particular type of banishing works best at the end of a ceremony or if one is about to go into one in a very sad or angry place.
To make this practice even stronger one can incorporate certain gestures, facial expressions, or dance moves that in time will become associated with the feelings of laughter or even lighthearted memories. This technique is a form of neurolinguistic programming that allows us to invoke this type of energy anywhere at anytime by just using a gesture or movement. By recalling a humorous memory while simultaneously doing a physical gesture we are reprogramming.
Meditation with the Fool
For those seeking a more meditative route, one can guide themselves through a meditation with the fool card of the Tarot. This type of practice is very common amongst modern magicians. It is commonly known as scrying. This type of work allows one to go deep into the subconscious mind to gain access to the archetypal symbols that make up our mind.
First you find a comfortable and quiet space. If one is inclined they can banish and open the circle for this type of magical meditation. It can also be very helpful to state out loud an intention, even if it’s vague. By setting this type of intention it allows us to be clear in our actions and goals. Next we place the Fool card before us, preferably at eye level so as not to strain the neck. Then we gaze intently at the image. Each tarot deck incorporates their own symbols and therefore can have different results. As we soften our gaze, allowing the image to slowly begin to blend into the greater view of our peripheral sight, we close our eyes and allow the image to formulate in our mind. Allow it to form as a door, a veil, or even as a television screen. Here we let the image fade away and try to just let our mind moving naturally without any strain. If we so choose we can allow ourselves in our mind’s eye to move into the screen or through the door or beyond the veil, all the while our mind begins to set the scene. Once here we must remember our intention so as to guide the flow of thoughts that begin to come. After sometime, usually once the meditation begins to fade away, we exit the way we came and come back to baseline consciousness.
I should note this type of magical meditation can be quite difficult for some. It might take quite a while before we are able to scry successfully into a tarot card. This type of practice can be aided by a number of other ritualistic practices such as zen meditation, breathing exercises, and astral projection. All of these allow us to calm the mind to a trance-like state. Once in this state it becomes easier for us to dig into the language of our subconscious mind. This practice is very well-known amongst magicians because the possibilities of what we can do with this are endless.
Assuming the Godform
Next we can play with God forms and archetypes to become the trickster themselves. This type of practice is common within the realms of theurgy but dates far back into ancient spiritual traditions that utilize costumes or makeup to manifest a deity or type of energy through ritual. A godform is when we invoke and visualize a particular deity and then “wear” that deity like an astral costume. The longer we hold the visualization and intention the deeper we can go into the role.
In this practice we are going to work with the trickster or heyoka energy. Of course we can look up images of tricksters, clowns, or fools on the internet, but I’ve found it to be much more powerful if we do a magical meditation as described above and ask our subconscious mind to show us what a trickster or fool looks like. By doing it this way we are far more likely to be accessing the archetypal imagery within ourselves. This imagery will be based upon our experiences and therefore be much more personal and therefore powerful. This also allows us to fine tune the type of trickster energy we are looking to manifest in our being.
We begin by visualizing the image of the trickster, allowing it to form at our height right before us. It helps to chant certain sounds or words that we might associate with this energy as well. Allow yourself to be silly for a moment if it helps. After all, it is trickster energy. Once the image is very clear in size, shape, and color, step into the energy and feel it emanating all around your body. Now see and do with that new persona. This type of practice can lead to very profound experiences that are akin to method acting in many ways.
I would also like to point out that in Lakota culture and tradition, to truly take on the role of the heyoka spirit one first must have a vision of the thunder beings in the west known as Wakinyan. Assuming godforms is different then calling upon the gods. Further, when we assume a godform we are locating that resonant energy that is within us and bringing it to the surface. As this energy is filtered through our mind and body, it is therefore unique to us. Coming to know our own personal trickster or heyoka-like energy, learning its name and traits, can be very liberating for us as individuals.
Putting it Together
As you may have noticed each of these practices above complement each other. I wrote them in a very specific way so as to be an outline for a type of ceremonial invocation of the heyoka. You begin by opening the circle, setting your intention, meditating with the energy, and finally invoking it into your being.
As I said before this type of energy can be used to really get into ourselves and help us find the humor in our practice. Individually these practices can be used alongside many others so as to add a level of power to your work. But remember that humor is never to be used in a spiritual sense to diminish or harm anyone else. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from looking at the archetypes in cultures throughout history it is that it is to convey a sense of Truth through the absurd. It is this honesty that brings insight into the world. If we allow ourselves to be the joke only then can we stand up and outside of our own egoic consciousness.
I ask that all magicians, spiritualists and shamans alike take a moment to consider the humor behind it all. It is part of the great mystery that life can only be qualified through death and vice versa. Take a moment and where the mask of the fool, and allow it to help you transcend yourself.