Most people interested in either/both Paganism or BDSM will have heard of Raven Kaldera, an internationally respected Neo Pagan Shaman and an authority on the subject of how Paganism and BDSM can be blended together into a fulfilling spiritual path.
I had the pleasure of reading one of his books “Dark Moon Rising: The Ordeal Path” last year and though the whole book was an extremely instructive (and fascinating) read, there was one section in particular that I wanted to share with you, namely his section on Monster work, dealing with the hidden parts of ourselves that we so often shy away from, hence the whole allegory of monsters in the basement.
Kaldera is mainly writing with regard to our shadow selves associated with bdsm – the hidden dominant, submissive, sadistic, masochistic selves that many hide away and refuse to acknowledge. The “beast” we keep in the basement. But the profound understanding of human psychology that he demonstrates with such ease in his highly intuitive work could actually be applied to any side of our own personality that we try to hide from.
"Yes, he's still down there.
In the basement, where he belongs.
We all have one down there, don't we? Some of us have more than one. I’m talking about the Beast. The creature who can't be allowed to run the body because he'd do something stupid or destructive or embarrassing or perhaps even evil. The part of yourself you'd like to pretend doesn't exist. Perhaps you even manage to convince yourself that he – or she – isn't there. Perhaps you manage to ignore the banging and clanking going on down there... until they saw through the floor and hijack you, if only for a moment.
We've all been there, too – "Why the hell did I do that? Where did that come from?" The truth is that the more you ignore them, the more vulnerable you are to them. Its when you turn your back that they get you.
Kaldera’s monster work really resonated with me as a witch. As a non Wiccan witch I end up in a lot of debates about “dark” intentions, “black” magic, “shadow” work etc etc. And I spend a lot of time justifying why I feel it is important to use all sides of who I am. And one of those reasons is because, I agree entirely with Mr Kaldera that locking up parts of your personality away and refusing to confront them can be detrimental to your growth as a person. It would endanger me as a unified synthesis of my diverse parts and it would weaken my craft. And he’s right; “the more you ignore them, the more vulnerable you are to them...” The more you fail to look in the mirror and understand all the parts that make you, you, the more you run the risk of those parts of you taking control when you least expect it.
Kuldera's book details seven key rules of Monster work and I’m going to replicate his rules here as I think they will be extremely useful in the context of witches who want to believe the world is a light and fluffy place and any thoughts of darkness or malice should be buried as deeply inside themselves as possible. (All italics are direct quotations from the book).
Keeping your monster locked up and pretending that they aren't there never works. They will bang and clank their chains, they will slam against the bars, they will keep you up all night, they will shout awful things at you at the worst possible moment. In order to block them out entirely, you must go about in such a state of blindness, deafness and denial that you will constantly miss things, a dissociating emotional zombie. You will also miss it when they saw through the floor and break out, long enough to make you say or do something you will regret later, before the internal guards lock them back up. You won't see them coming and thats even worse... because then you have to make excuses for them and clear up their messes.
So - failing to acknowledge all the parts that make you up will have a real impact on you as a person. You put so much energy into pretending those parts of you don’t exist that the rest of you doesn’t have the energy left to function properly. Effectively, you just wear yourself out with denial.
Given that this never works – even though most people have to try it anyway, usually for years and years – it means that sooner or later you have to haul your ass down there to the dark place and face them through the bars. Just finding the door may be difficult. Finding where you hid the key to the door may take even longer. Making your way, step by step down that dark stairway when you'd rather be almost anywhere else, that can be interminable. Still, its better than being suddenly transported there without your consent, via depression or madness or pain or some other horrible happenstance. Go there on your own while you're still healthy. It will be better in the long run.
Confronting the hidden side of yourself when you have the emotional capacity to do so would seem to be significantly more healthy than waiting until you are too weak to fight any more. This is when the shadow side of you will spring to life and triumphantly take over. Through acknowledgement and honesty you will gain the control over the parts of yourself you fear. Once controlled, these can be mastered and used for effect in the workings you do in your craft.
Monsters that you throw into the same locked closet together often fuse. At the very least they rub off on each other. That means that the things you are afraid of or disgusted by or angry about start to get linked together, often in weird ways. There's little hope of untangling them, at least not at the point where your monster is pissed at you.
For a witch this could be anger and hatred for example. Managed and faced properly, you may well do effective workings that incorporate both. But left to fester until your anger is blisteringly psychopathic and your malice senseless cruelty, you may well end up doing spell work that you have no control over. Better to be the master than the servant of your own mind.
This is an important point, so listen closely. You cannot decide to heal your monster. Lets say that again. You cannot decide to heal your monster. It won't work. While some people do manage to get their monsters to change, if you go down there with any hint of an agenda of changing them, they'll smell it. (After all, they do know you, they do live in your head.) They'll notice that you don't love them as is, warts and all, and they'll rebel and say "Fuck you." You'll get no cooperation out of them then.
No matter how much you pretend you’re intrinsically candyfloss lovely, you’re probably not. Accept it and move on. Learn to like the bits that the world has been telling you are “negative” for too long. You have a shadow side for a reason. Embrace it and use it.
That brings us to the most important rule of the lot: You must learn to love them as they are, horrid and dangerous and shameful and all. You must find it in your heart to love them, without ever hoping to change them. And know, you can't keep a tiny corner of your mind hopeful that by loving them as they are, hey will eventually heal and change. First of all, they'll hear that, and they won't like it. Second, it might not happen. What if you were to go to your grave with them this way, still embarrassing and awful? You'd better find a way to be ok with that. The point of this is to get a better relationship with them, not to change them.
And again, the idea of synthesis and unity. You can’t change yourself, so learn to love who you are. As a witch, you work with intent and power of will. Lack of self belief and self doubt will weaken your faith in yourself and this will have a detrimental effect on your own perceived self image as a witch and a tangible negative effect on any magic you perform.
That said, sometimes you do have to wrestle them down. Its hard to do this in a spirit of love, but try to think of yourself as the alpha in the little pack of needs in your head and when members of your tribe act uppity, you knock them back down and make them show throat to you. You don't hate them for it; you consider it part of the deal of being alpha. They're testing your strength, to make sure you are strong enough to be trustworthy. And once you have wrestled your monster down, and he obeys - if only temporarily – he is no longer your enemy. He is now your dependent, and you must hunt for him and feed him. Taking care of his needs is now your responsibility. You can decide which things he can have, and which are just not going to happen, period, but starving him is irresponsible behaviour towards someone you want to trust you. He needs something to believe that you really value him.
Once you’re in command, you don’t have to fear these parts of you any more. And once you stop being frightened of them, you can use them constructively to advance your abilities as a witch.
When it comes time for negotiations, a starving monster will demand the moon with ketchup on top. They are used to being denied, and they don't really believe they are going to get fed this time – not after all the disappointments and denial and ignoring – so they come up with a truly ridiculous list of demands and claim that they won't be satisfied with anything less. Don't be fooled. Don't give up hope and go away in disgust, no matter how tempting it might be. Start small. Give your inner beast some little thing that they want, or a mild version thereof. Yes, they will want more, but you are the one in control. Give them as much time as you can safely give them, then set the boundary. Over time, when they see that they are getting at least some of their needs fed, they will scale back on the demands. They'll still want those out of reach things, but they won't be constantly screaming for them. There are ways to compromise, but you have to make your way to the middle first.
Start off small and work up. Don’t jump from fluffy little love spells to huge big whopping curses. You may never choose to use parts of yourself – that’s fine. As long as you become comfortable with who you are, you can choose to use as much or as little of any part of you that you want. But to make this decision you do need to know who you are and you do need to confront your monsters.
I’m giving the last word to Kaldera – he says it better than I could.
Those of you who deal with the darkness know this well; if you don't deal with what lives in your basement, it will deal with you. The predator that you chain and starve then has only your mind to prey on, and he will. He will. Believe it.
All italics direct quotations from the book Dark Moon Rising: The Ordeal Path by Raven Kuldera and used with full permission from the author. The book can be purchased here on Amazon.
For further information on Raven Kuldera, please see a direct link to his excellent website:
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