Astral travel…. It’s a huge thing in many people’s practices, a way to deal with spirits on their level, in their world, to learn new things, and explore possibilities outside of what this physical realm can offer. People astral travel for different reasons but my intent in this post is to give basic information along with tips, tricks, and safety advice.
For those of you who follow my tumblr blog, you’ll probably have seen much of this information before.
First, what is astral travel?
Astral travel is an out of body experience where one’s spirit or consciousness leaves their body through astral projection and crosses beyond this realm into another. Often, astral travel will occur in places of spirits, deities, or other places but some claim to be able to travel to places like Tolkein’s Middle Earth. There is much debate on whether these places exist, how they exist, whether they’re physical or incorporeal, and how time works there. Sometimes, the world of dreams is also combined in the astral and they can be seen, by some people, as one and the same.
Astral projection, as an aside, is an out of body experience. I feel and define astral projection as leaving your body but not traveling beyond this realm. With astral projection, one can travel the world and experiences things they may not be able to experience else-wise here.
Other terms you might have heard brandying about are: spirit walking, projection, out of body experiences, astral journeying, spirit journeying, O.B.E., crossing over, going to the Other Side, across the hedge, crossing the hedge, cross the (fill with your term of choice). There is some debate of minutia of meaning in these terms but in general they mean the same thing.
In my experience, everyone experiences the astral differently, although they sometimes align in interesting ways. I’ve met someone in the astral before and a year later met them again online. The astral realms are flexible, wide and vast. Perception may have something to do with what’s available to you in the astral, although that’s a topic for debate. Perhaps it is that the individual mind can only be stretch so far beyond the realm of belief and thus what’s possible can only exist within the realm. The realms spoke of the most often are called spirit realms, Other Side, Fae realms, faeryland, and so on.
Achieving astral projection can occur in a variety of ways but almost always requires two things: an alternative state of consciousness and leaving your body. This is something I find most distressing within the community is the lack of stress on this point. For the most part you should be leaving your body. Some people have a partial removal of consciousness, their attention and focus being elsewhere but there usually is an accompanying feeling of leaving your body. Some techniques may not have this happen to you but one should take care in these instances to separate traveling and daydreaming as they’re usually different. An alternative state of consciousness is almost always required as it gets your consciousness to a point to leave your body. Some people have an easy time of this and others find it most difficult. Many techniques have been developed to assist with this from the extreme of entheogens and flying ointments, hanging upside down in a bag from a tree, and pain to the mild of sex, meditation, and trancing.
People can travel together in the astral. People can be forced to astral travel. These are things that can be done but are a topic for another time. I do have to say this: consent is essential. It is beyond rude and potentially dangerous to pull someone over to the other side without their permission. Likewise, it is beyond rude and potentially dangerous for someone to pull you over to the other side and you should express your anger when this is done. Deities have a tendency to do this although spirits do as well. They don’t have the right to do that to you without permission. The only way that it might be OK is if you asked their assistance.
When people astral travel, they often speak about spirit guides. A spirit guide is a spirit that’s meant to guide or assist you in some way. I, by and large, do not trust spirit guides and do not use them. I don’t see the point in them personally. I do understand that some people need to have a sense of guidance or to be assisted in some way. I get it, logically. However, I don’t trust spirit guides. I don’t trust anyone who says they’ll helping someone just because they can. That sounds like a load of bullshit and I’ve NEVER met a spirit that’s acted like that. Ever. Even spirit guides get something by dealing with you, even if you don’t know what you’re giving them. And you don’t need a spirit guide. Almost every 101 book out there tells you that you need a spirit guide. I’m telling you that you don’t. You can, of course, have one if you so desire or end up having one by accident but you don’t need to seek one out. I find that it’s easier to be deceived if you’re looking for something as you’re willing to overlook little warning signs and issues telling you to stay away.
So what does it feel like? Off, dreamy, and I find that a large portion of astral travelers actually seen themselves in the third person, as if they’re looking over their shoulder. Some others are face to face with themselves and more still are in first person as if they’re there. It’s fun, exhilarating, and freeing.
To me, exploring the astral is like going to a large foreign city. You might speak some of the language but not all. It’s a weird culture and you don’t want to offend people so you’re super cautious but you also don’t want to be taken advantage of. And the best way to learn about a new culture is to jump right in. That being said, there are some basic tips and advice that one should think about. Half of any type of travel is acknowledging the danger thereof and prepping yourself for trouble. That’s true whether you’re flying to Moscow, road tripping to Quebec, sailing to Sydney, or traveling in the astral.
“You can’t just read the guide book. You’ve got to throw yourself in, eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers – or is that just me? Stop asking questions. Go and do it.”
– Ninth Doctor, Doctor Who, Episode 7, The Long Game.
I strongly believe that anyone attempting to cross over should have some basic knowledge on how to protect and defend themselves. I am constantly and consistently hearing stories on how people get over there and they die – this can be a nothing event or it can be traumatic. I’m constantly hearing stories on how people get their asses kicked by spirits or deities. You should know what to do when that situation arises. Trusting everyone should not be an option. Protecting yourself, defending yourself should be. You might not win and you may still get your ass kicked but at least you can say you tried and you’ll know what to do the next time. So protection technique A didn’t work but it you change X, Y, and Z components and you’ll get protection technique B which does work.
Do people cross over and travel around without learning protection first and have no issues? Sure. But just because some people can do it doesn’t mean you or others can. Some people can spend their entire lives drunk driving and never getting caught or having an accident but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or that their drinking buddies will be able to do the same.
As an aside, I’d also like to remind everyone that astral travel is NOT necessary. It may be necessary in some practices but it is not a requirement of most.
It’s ALWAYS good to remember that nine times out of ten you’re going to be dealing with non-humans and these beings have their own culture, beliefs, systems of justice, and habits. They’re not indebted to helping you (no one is) so expecting the first spirit you see to become your ‘spirit guide’ is potentially foolish and dangerous. Remember that spirits, like people, probably want something and don’t tend to do something for nothing. Are there some that do? Sure, but like how not everyone is a philanthropist, not everyone on the other side is willing to help you.
Also remember your readings for folklore and fairy tales: spirits lie, they deceive and they can hurt you. Physically hurt you and they can cause harm to you here. I’ve stunted nail growth from a ghost slamming a locker door on my hand and breaking my finger. I’ve cuts on my body from six months ago that should have healed with no apparent cause on how those cuts got there – even though cuts and wounds from mundane sources since then have healed. I’ve gotten hand print shaped bruises on my legs and ankles, even on days where I’ve stayed in bed, alone, and read all day long.These things happen, even if nothing followed me home. Sometimes wounds from the other side carry over here. I injured my knee two months ago by being hurled, shaken, and ragdolled by the leg by a troll in the astral. When I woke up, the knee was and still is injured here, in the physical realm, with no cause at all (in fact, at the time, I hadn’t even climbed a set of stairs in days, forget about having injured it in some way). It still hurts. If I get up from where I’m sitting, it’s not likely to hold my weight right away. I can’t sit in certain positions for long without it aching. It’s not swollen. it’s not bruised. It’s not damaged. I’ve had medical professionals look at it and I’m going to take it for an x-ray as soon as I get an appointment to do so. I want to rule out the mundane despite knowing that I did nothing to injure it here and there’s no apparent cause for it except having been injured in the astral. So yes, you can be hurt and that’s why I recommend that people should learn protection techniques first. I injured my knee while playing distraction so others could get to safety and take it down – I knew what could happen and I paid the price, willingly. It may not be that easy for others.
- Check your home and personal protections. You should already have personal and home protections up. This may be something like wearing a crucifix or it might be an elaborate network of witch balls and witches’ ladders.
- Use a magic circle. I don’t do this and many don’t but it may help protect your body while you’re away.
- Prepare yourself for the morning after. Using the assumption that you intend to travel at night, prepare your morning as you would if you expected a hangover. A hearty breakfast, lots of fluids, headache and nausea remedy. Sometime the herbals used to cross over will you give a hangover type feeling. This occurs even if the herbal is consumed via oil, ointment, or smoke. If it does occur, keep records and test it. Some people react to certain herbs that way, others discover it’s because they gave themselves too much or combined it with something.
- Beef up your protections if you’re going somewhere dangerous. This is especially true if you’re dealing in new territory or with particular tricky or shady folk.
How to Stay Safe:
- Remember that the astral/other side/spirit realms/faery land/etc IS DANGEROUS. IS NOT SAFE. IT IS DANGEROUS. I literally cannot stress this enough. It is not a playground. It can be perfectly safe and nice but it is not going to be safe for everyone.
- Be flexible and adaptable. You were planning on heading towards a wheat field but ended up in a desert? Roll with it.
- Don’t be aggressive (unless necessary). That’s pretty much asking for a brawl.
- You have the right to defend yourself. And sometimes the best defense is offense. And running away is almost always an option, even if it isn’t the best option.
- Remain vigilant and doubt everything. This sounds like a terrible way to live and it is. But this had saved my ass more times than I care to tell you.
- Train yourself. Your body over there doesn’t have to be the same way here. Some people change shape depending on their mood, location, or job. I’ve met a few folks who never stop shifting, always moving. Others become their true selves. And more still just have little subtle changes in how they best reflect themselves. With this new ‘body’ you can do whatever you like. I recommend training your body to be more responsive. Maybe even train yourself with a weapon if you notice yourself getting into trouble.
- Don’t get caught up on deciding what’s a spirit, fae, demon, god, etc. The lines get blurred. And really, what does it matter? They’ll either let you know or you can figure it out via context. And if you can’t, then it’s probably not important to know anyway.
- Assume someone is dangerous until proven otherwise. It’s a great rule of thumb, especially if you don’t know exactly with whom you’re talking to.
- Spirits lie, deceive, cheat, and kill. Sometimes spirits are just assholes. Some they lie about who or what they are. They do it for reasons you can’t understand, for their own personal agenda, just for laughs, because they’re hungry, or to fuck with you. Gods are not exempt from this.
- Spirits can take the form or glamour of another being. This is standard folklore stuff. They might be able to appear as your mother but they might also appear as a deity. Why they’d do this depends but usually it’s for kicks.
- If you’re paranoid then come up with a way to banish each and every being you meet. Seriously. If you’re that concerned about it, take the precautionary step. But if you are that concerned then you may wish to reconsider traveling to begin with. It’s not necessary. You can do witchcraft without it.
- Don’t eat anything. This should be obvious. Accepting food offered (or eating random shit you find) is unwise and best and can get you seriously fucked up at worst.
- Assume everyone’s out to get something. I have never met a spirit that isn’t looking for something. I know they might not say anything and maybe they’re acting really nice and generally are, but they ARE getting something. Maybe they’re studying humans. Or maybe they’re leeching energy off you or selling information about you to someone. You don’t know.
- They are not human. Do not forget that. [UPG Alert!] I’m of the belief that many spirits don’t think the same way we do. They don’t hold things to the same level of importance, they certainly don’t seem to value the same things or have the same morals or ethics. You can’t expect them to act a certain way or do something in a particular fashion. It’s like expecting an alien from Pluto to be able to know all the intricacies and eccentricities of your culture.
- Avoid politics. Politics is a game no matter who is playing it or what field it is on. A deadly, horrible, necessary game. Try to avoid it if possible. If you can’t (as many constant travelers cannot) at least keep your wits about you.
- Know who’s top dog. There are a lot of spirits out there that have territory. Some of those spirits are just holding that territory for someone bigger and badder than they are. And some of those territories have land that translates into a place on the physical realm. Yeah, you can literally walk into a spirit’s territory here by accident and have to deal with it over there.
- You are not at home. Stop acting like it. You’re traveling. Tra-vel-ing. No one owes you a thing (unless they do) and acting like they owe you secrets and knowledge is a great way of getting no where fast and pissing everyone off. And ruining the party for everyone else.
- You can get hurt. Spirit wounds happen. All the time. Sometimes it’s bruises, scratches, or random aches and pains that shouldn’t be there. I’ve woken up with visible six fingerprint and one thumb-sized bruises on each ankle even though I was in the house alone except for the cat and slept only three hours. I’ve noticed these tend to appear overnight and will last for much longer than normal, despite any treatment towards it (although, spells do seem to soften them). Hint: treat the wound on the spiritual realm as well as the physical. Keep in mind that sometimes these wounds heal in the astral but not in the physical.
- Keep records. As mentioned above and previously, keeping records is highly important. I don’t even note in my records what I do (although that’s a personal preference). I just note that I crossed over at what time, what I took with the dosages (leaving a sample aside nearby my notes in case something goes wrong), and when I return what time I did that. This is also useful if you find yourself crossing over at random. Some folks get triggered by shit. It’s best to keep the records so you learn from it all. Do as you will. Most people keep everything in a journal. I keep mind in a binder and have a form I fill out each time, similar to a lab report. Ugh, paperwork but brilliant at the same time. You can also write down the information from your travels themselves. This is great for memory exercises.
- Your UPG is as valid and true as everyone else’s. UPG [unverified personal gnosis or some form thereof] means that what you’ve experienced is real to you. It’s valid and true if you say it is. No one should be able to deny your experiences (if they do then call them out although if you’re operating on historical or mythological fallacies someone will call you out on that.) That being said, your UPG does not have to match anyone else’s UPG. Sometimes they match up and that’s awesome. Others times you’re all by yourself. That’s awesome too. Just remember that just because you’ve experienced something and someone else experienced something else entirely, does not mean both of you aren’t correct. Treat other people’s UPGs as you’d like yours to be treated.
Getting back depends on how you got there in the first place. A lot of just ride it out till they come back. Others have a series of techniques like the ones below. It’s a good idea to keep trips short until you can find your way back without trying to (although, some people never get to that kind of familiarity with this so YMMV).
How to Get Back:
- Return phrase. Some people have trained themselves to return to their senses when they utter a particular word or phrase. (Likewise, some people have trained themselves to cross over with a different word or phrase)
- Alarms. If you travel while asleep or fall asleep while traveling, setting an alarm will shock you out of whatever realm you’re in, most of the time. This isn’t exactly recommended because it’s really disorienting. It’s best to use an alarm that starts softly and gains volumes as it goes. (You can usually find a digital one in a department store for around $12 USD, last I checked.) You can likewise try to use an mp3 that starts soft and gets loud to do the same thing if that works better for you.
- Tether yourself. If you can, when you first cross over, try to extend yourself back and feel where your body is. Keep that feeling in the back of your mind and you’ll be able to find it again. You can make a “physical” reminder of this by wearing a rubber band or bracelet, ring, whatever, to remind yourself. Ensure that you appear on the other side with it.
- If you travel with a spirit, that spirit can shove you back. (It should be noted that other spirits can do this too and will sometimes do it to be assholes). In non-allies, it’s a dominance play. Also known as a dick move.
- Have someone sit by and wake you at a certain time. Switch out who watches who to make things even. And give that watcher something to do. It’s boring watching a sleeping or meditating person most of the time.
- Have a start zone. Find a place where you will always first visit when you cross. If you appear anywhere else first, go directly to the start zone. This way, you will feel best connected to that spot and will feel most closely connected to reality there. Then you can jump back and forth as much as you’d like.
- Food. This is going to sound weird. Traveling is draining to many people and I always recommend prepping a carb-filled or grounding food for yourself for after. If you eat the same thing after each trip (like ritual bread or whatever), remembering that smell, taste, texture, sight, etc can bring you back.
- Keep records. As stated above. Not a way to get back but something to keep in mind.
If you can’t travel, keep trying. It takes time. Try different techniques as safely as possible to get your goal. Sometimes people have blocks they need to work through to travel, whether that’s personal or imposed.