I was fulfilling what seemed an entirely reasonable request from one of my spirits for additions to their altar, and my hand brushed up against the wings on their statue’s back.
And I brushed against feathers and wing—actual feathers and wing—and I pulled back and kind of giggled and spun around a bit dizzy. I think I might have also said something like “More!”
I’ve had this kind of response on occasion to touching statues and icons at certain times. My first “goddess” statue—which I had repurposed at an earlier and more pop culturey point in my timeline—almost knocked me prone once when I touched it by accident. Not in retribution or anything but, well, just a sense of “power.” I’ve had it with a couple of other statues, as well. Sometimes, it’s a sense of “power.” Often, though, I might call it “realness”—by which I mean a kind of density that I can’t quite describe beyond offering you a comparison that requires some imagination.
Imagine touching someone and realizing that there’s far more of them there than you, or at least that you expect. Compared to them, you’re more like an inflated balloon that discovers a person of flesh and blood.
I’ve had these kinds of experiences with “animated,” “awakened,” “seated,” and such statues. I’ve had them with statues that’ve just been the focus of enough attention from me and attention-getting to who the statue depicts. I mean, on some occasions, the statues will even seem to start to move.
I’ve had similar experiences while engaging in visionary spirit contact. I remember early into my relationship with Athena when she bid me grasp the shaft of her spear. It was similarly dense, real. And grasping it started to make me feel realer, solider, denser. When dealing with certain classes of spirits while journeying, they’ve grasped me in welcome and friendship, and that same sense of density hits me again, and I feel it “rubbing off” onto me—my hands touching against their hands, hands clasped while facing each other, and my hands start to grow denser, and it spreads slowly.
This response doesn’t happen all the time. It catches me when I’m not expecting it. I moved several statues during a recent cleaning, and there’s always a sense of polite, somewhat awkward, “Sorry, I’m picking you up so I can…clean? Sorry. Sorry.” At those points, I have what I’ll call “politeness boundaries”—or maybe just my boundaries—and while I can sense their density is there, it’s far less viscerally immediate.
With images, this realness can hit me, as well, though I find myself also smiling, grinning, or staring past statues and icons at something else. I often will turn and smile at them, usually when candles are lit and especially when the incense is burning. Consciously, I’m not looking at anything or anyone in particular at those moments, but my body and my spirit certainly seem to be responding.
A couple of other points come to me as I reflect on all this. Firstly, I wonder how much the more pop aestheticization of magic and witchcraft and the rest turns upon a similar visceral response: human persons’ bodies and spirits responding unconsciously to the images and accompanying low-resolution, low-key presences of various spirits and more-than-human persons. In that sense, pop culture magic aesthetics could be an entry point for developing praxis, for developing clairsentience even. Of course, not every person who dives into the aesthetics is going to get to the point of praxis, or will wind up wanting to, so that developing clairsentience needs to join with some kind of praxis, including good psychical hygiene and boundaries.
Secondly and more personally, I look back on my early time as a “clairsentient” where I would notice someone moving through the area, and my body would react to the presence. I recall times when someone unpleasant or hostile would come close enough that I’d even find myself growling or even feeling outright fear responses. It is one thing to go through most of your life in that uncertain, almost “feral” clairsensory state, and it is another to begin consciously realizing that you also can feel your friends and allies. This has even come up while engaged in Lynn McTaggart-style intention exercises where some degree of co-presencing occurs, when people I’ve grown closer to suddenly start growing closer, even when still separated by hundreds of miles in the visible.
With the statue with the wings, I later was reflecting on the experience with the spirit in question. It occurred to me that I felt tempted to just, well, touch the statue more. This impulse rings certain cautionary bells for me, but I have to wonder, well, isn’t that one of the things I’m trying to get at? To become more “real”?
Of course, at that point, one may also become more like the spirits, or at least certain classes of spirits. I wonder how much historical concerns about demonality (whether with actual demons or “demons”) arose in part from such concerns. One is likely to entangle oneself more deeply with the imaginal in potentially awkward, and fun, ways. Consider faerie lore about mingling with the fae, or with other, similar beings.
That said, I do also feel that simply pawing up a statue veers from that pursuit of the sacred—which is another way to describe that “realness”—into the desperate, quotidian hunger of the profane. Capitalism has often sought to, well, capitalize on that hunger and what it masks without actually actually sating anything. This is probably where the aesthetics of magic and witchcraft become a trap: a happy shiny blanket one can wrap around oneself while failing to engage with anything more than the consumerist image.
I also wonder, well, isn’t that desire to entangle with the imaginal and imaginal beings what all those men who sought to summon, woo, and marry jinn princesses or to conjure and bind faerie sisters into conjugal bondage were after, in a way—beyond the riches and sexy times? But, similarly, the hunger for riches and sexy times—which are legitimate hungers—probably became a similar trap to what the consumerist aesthetics can become, as well.
Nonetheless, I found myself pondering the miniaturization of temple statue technology that Aaron Cheak and others have observed in the shift from temple “priestly” magic to that practiced by magicians making talismans and charms. I mean, my statue is already probably smaller than it would’ve been centuries ago, and surely I could wear such a “real” and “dense” statue/charm/home-for-spirits and carry them with me.
What I’m getting at here isn’t a talisman in the strict, Picatrixy, astrological sense, or I don’t think it is. Or, who I’m most immediately am engaging with are sublunar rather than celestial, let alone the planetary. Or, and this is probably far more accurate, the protocols and timing are far more forgiving for establishing contact with the sublunar and anchoring that contact, than otherwise.
Featured Image: detail from John Singer Sargent, Astarte (1890-5)
 I note the procedures described in Jinn Sorcery tend to involve more negotiation and making sure Jinn Kings and Princes are fine with the arrangement, especially compared with what the English faerie tradition seems to suggest, at least at the grimoire level.
 Aaron Cheak, “The Perfect Black: Egypt and Alchemy,” in Alchemical Traditions: From Antiquity to the Avant-Garde, edited by Aaron Cheak (Melbourne: Numen, 2013), 88n169. I LOOK FORWARD TO THE SECOND EDITION, DR. CHEAK.