A long time ago, when I decided that it would be a good thing to offer reiki and ritual services, I knew nothing about working for clients apart from doing public tarot divinations. I already had a lot of magical experience, but it was mostly through doing work for myself, close friends, and family. I had yet to discover the ins and outs of working for positive change in the lives of complete strangers. But I would soon learn that there are many hidden lessons in this line of work. It changed my magic. It changed my outlook on the world. And it wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. It was a crash course in interacting with the human condition as well as in the complexities of sorcery for hire.
The first lesson I ever learned was that everyone is sincere—even the most acerbic doubting Thomas. Everyone, without exception, who contacts me for conjure or reiki on some level wants the benefit of my services even if they are too nervous or shy to allow themselves to fully admit it. Strangely enough, the doubters are the ones who want to believe the most. And it’s really good to doubt if you’re going to give a complete stranger your money in exchange for a spiritual service. You should be thinking critically about this person: is he acting professional? Is he clear? Is he responding intelligently to your situation? Critical thinking comes from doubt. But we also know that you can have too much of a good thing in this case—too much doubt gets in the way of the entire experience. So from the very beginning, the client and I walk a fine line of trust. The client evaluates me and I evaluate him. We enter a sincere partnership and do everything we can to create change. Learning to trust complete strangers meant I had to mature in ways I never anticipated.
Another key lesson I learned was that no situation is simple—every life is hard; everyone’s doing the best he or she can with available tools and resources. If someone comes to me, they have a problem that they haven’t been able to solve through mundane means. Their lawyer stole all the money. Their fiancée ran off with the neighbor. Grandpa went missing in the park. Maybe they got assaulted and are having a hard time healing from lingering psychological and physical pain. Maybe their career is stalled. Maybe they just need to have a spiritual experience, something completely alien to them because of the way they were raised. Whatever the case may be, they’re suffering on some level. Learning to understand and appreciate the suffering of others meant I had to get over myself and learn compassion.
A huge lesson I learned was that the magic doesn’t come from me—it comes through me. This is the “spirit led” part. A sorcerer or reiki practitioner who “tries to do things” fails a lot. Beginning practitioners often mistakenly think that if they just concentrate hard enough, if they just WILL something into being, the world will respond. This can work sometimes, but grabbing the world by the throat and shaking it more often results in nothing or even in the opposite coming to pass. Instead, through a lot of grimoire work—by seeking out both human and non-human mentors—I quickly came to understand that the most powerful work has a spiritual origin, not a human one. I started to relax and let my spirit guides, spirits of divination, familiars, and other contacts do their jobs. This is the secret to my success. It’s not me. It’s spirit working through me. Learning to trust my connection to spirit meant I had to develop a large amount of faith in a world I could not see or touch. Paradoxically, doing so eventually helped me see it and touch it, but that took time, belief, and the willingness to be patient and practice the art while not having all the answers. I still don’t have all the answers.
One lesson I had to learn multiple times in multiple ways was that people in pain are often very unpleasant to be around. We all know this to some extent. But doing conjure is sometimes like working in the customer service section of a department store. People are angry, sad, bereft, despairing, or even suicidal before they even speak to you. You have to be ready with mundane solutions as well as spiritual ones, keeping a suicide hotline number handy, having online links to addiction recovery centres, women’s shelters, walk-in clinics. Learning about my community so that I could help others made me a better spiritual worker. It also meant I had to get out on the street and pay attention. Now very few things escape my notice in my spiritual or physical environment.
These are only a few of the important lessons that have come from this work. One of my teachers used to say that “many are called but few are chosen.” And I wouldn’t truly understand what she was saying until I actually set up my website, made business cards, started doing community reiki, sorcery for hire, and counselling others. Then I understood what “gifted for the work” really meant. To be chosen for something like this means you have to have skills that others don’t—not just the ability to perform effective rituals, but a whole panoply of hidden qualities that enable you to thrive in this field. And if you don’t have them right off, you learn the hard way whether you can find them in yourself. But I wouldn’t trade those experiences, even the painful ones, for anything.