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Unlocking the Unconscious: The Power of Pathworking

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What is pathworking?

Pathworking is a versatile tool which allows us to explore the unconscious mind directly. Its roots can be traced to the Kabbalah and the mystical interpretations of the Tree of Life. However, pathworking often transcends specific religious or mystical beliefs, blending various traditions and spiritual systems to suit individual practices and needs. The Swiss psychiatrist C.G.Jung used a similar process in his practice, which he called Active Imagination (more on this later).

Pathworking uses guided visualisation and meditation to access the unconscious, explore inner landscapes, encounter archetypal energies or deities and work through personal or spiritual issues. It’s a way to directly engage with the unconscious through symbols, gods, goddesses, elements and energies in a deeply personal and experiential manner.

Types and purposes of different pathworking techniques

There are various ways to approach pathworking. You can use whichever way suits you, your requirements and your practice. Here are a few ways options.

Archetypal Journeying

Pathworking can allow us to journey through different archetypes, such as The Shadow, The Mother or The King or through the symbolism of the tarot, to understand and integrate these aspects within themselves. In this type of pathworking, we may journey to meet a representation of an archetype or embody the archetype ourselves.

Deity Communion

Pathworking is often used to forge closer connections with specific deities. By journeying through guided meditations that focus on the lore and symbols associated with a deity, we can seek to understand our deities more deeply and receive guidance or wisdom.

Seasonal and Elemental Work

Many pagans and witches align their practices with the cycles of nature and the elements. Pathworking can be a method to deeply connect with these cycles, by journeying through the landscapes and energies of each season or elemental realm, facilitating a deeper bond with the earth and its cycles.

Shadow Work

Pathworking to uncover the shadow involves delving into the unconscious to confront and integrate the “shadow self” – the aspects of oneself that are often hidden or suppressed. Pathworking provides a controlled and symbolic environment to explore these areas, offering insights and promoting healing.

Magical Training and Development

Pathworking can be a tool for developing magical skills, such as visualisation, energy manipulation and psychic intuition. By regularly engaging in pathworking exercises, practitioners can hone their abilities in a structured way.

How Pathworking works

Pathworking is similar to visualisation but it is more planned and structured. The pathworking takes you on a journey through an inner landscape for a particular purpose. In pathworking, you use a symbolic, liminal place such as a door, cave mouth, symbol, path, gate or key to access a different plane and explore an alternative state of consciousness.

Some pathworkers like to dive underwater, some to burrow into the earth while some choose to rise to a higher plane in a hot air balloon, by climbing the world tree or using a lift! In these alternative realms, you can find guidance, transformation and healing. You can complete a pathworking to find healing or guidance or just for relaxation. You can design your own pathworking to meet a spirit guide or a deity or to find the information you need about your life’s journey.

Most pathworkings also contain a healing element that is designed to help you feel better when you come back to ordinary consciousness. You can find guided pathworkings on YouTube and there are many books on the subject if this is something you are interested in exploring further.

I have offered a simple pathworking example below. This pathworking uses a lift to help us go to deeper levels of consciousness. If you do not like lifts, you can imagine a set of ten stone steps instead. Imagine the stone steps and notice the walls or greenery that surround them as well as the sounds and scents around you so you get as clear a picture as possible.

If you choose to follow my pathworking, you don’t need to memorise it exactly. As long as you get the gist of it it will work. Sometimes it is better to just stay in the pathworking than to pull yourself out of it to refer to my words. However, if you choose to do that at first it is perfectly fine. Choose something with a gentle alarm that will remind you to take the path back to ordinary consciousness without startling you.

Ritual – a pathworking to find a place of healing

Find a place where you will not be disturbed for around fifteen minutes. Sit in a comfortable chair or lie on a bed. Make sure you are not too warm or too cold. You may like to light candles or incense or play gentle instrumental music, chanting, drumming or nature sounds.

Read through the following instructions a couple of times to familiarise yourself with the practice. You can record the instructions if you like leaving a pause between each instruction so that you can spend time focusing on sights, sounds, sensations and feelings. Alternatively, simply refer back to this page as you need to. Set a timer or alarm for ten minutes.

Imagine that a mist appears in the room where you are sitting and, as it clears, you see a set of doors. As you walk over to the doors, they slide open revealing a lift.

You step into the lift. It’s a fancy lift, like one in a swanky hotel, with gold mirrors and a plush carpet beneath your feet. The lift is illuminated with soft lighting and gentle relaxing music is playing. There is a comfortable chair for you to sit on so you take a seat. The chair supports your body gently but firmly and you feel safe and supported.

You turn to look at the doors of the lift. Illuminated in large letters almost as large as the doors is the number 10. You notice that on the side of the lift, within arm’s reach is a control panel with arrows going up and down. You press the down arrow.

You feel the lift begin to move down a level and, as you feel yourself sinking, you notice how relaxed you feel. Your feet sink into the thick carpet and you feel supported and safe. 

You notice that the doors of the lift are now illuminated with the number 9. You feel your body relaxing into the chair. Then the lift begins to move again sinking deeper and deeper.

The lift number changes to the number 8 and you notice that your body feels warm and comfortable. Then the lift begins to move again sinking deeper and deeper.

The lift number changes to the number 7. You take a deep breath then release any tension you feel on the out-breath.

The lift number changes to number 6. You feel all your cares and worries dissipate as you go deeper and you release them further with another deep breath.

As the lift number displays 5, you realise you are halfway there. You know that you can get back to normal reality just by opening your eyes, but you are excited to visit the beautiful place the lift is taking you to.

At level 4, the lights dim ever so slightly into a soothing golden glow. You are aware of a sweet perfume that makes you feel relaxed and calm.

At number 3 your mind feels clear and calm, like a still pond.

At level 2 you feel a sense of curiosity and excitement about what the place you are visiting will be like.

As the lift reaches level 1, you feel a deep sense of wellbeing.

The lift number changes to 0. As it does the doors open leaving a circular opening beyond which there is a misty landscape. As the mist begins to dissipate you see a beautiful scene. Sunlight filters through trees and is both green and blue, cool and warm. 

You step through the circular 0 opening and find yourself in a clearing in a wood. The doors to the lift will remain open ready for your return. The sunlight sends beams of gold down onto the grassy floor. You feel the warm sun on your arms. The air is warm and still with just the gentlest breeze. In the middle of the clearing is a shallow pool surrounded by mossy rocks.

You take a step forward and sit on one of the mossy rocks. It feels warm and comfortable. You look into the pool. It reflects a clear blue sky with perhaps the occasional passing cloud. What shape is the cloud? Light and shadows dance in the ripples of the pool. Sometimes they take the form of shapes or images. You hear the gentle sound of the breeze rustling the leaves on the trees. You spend some time just gazing into the pool watching the light and shadows dancing. Make a mental note of any symbols or images you see in the pool. If you do not see any images in the pool perhaps you see a stone at the bottom of the pool with a symbol engraved on it. Stay here for as long as feels comfortable or until your timer reminds you that it is time to return.

Before you leave, you notice that on the rock beside you is a tray with a jug and a crystal glass on it. You pick up the jug and scoop some of the water from the pool. You pour some water into the crystal glass and take a sip. The water feels cool and cleansing. As you swallow you feel the water flowing into your body, rejuvenating and reviving it. You take a few more sips. You feel the water washing away any negative thoughts and feelings, any sluggishness or lethargy. As you finish the glass you feel full of energy and vitality and are eager to return to the world filled with creativity, excitement, joy and love.

You turn and see the lift doors waiting for you. You step into the lift and press the button for level 10 before seating yourself back in the comfortable chair. You watch as the lift goes through the numbers returning you to everyday reality. 1 then 2 then 3: you begin to feel more awake and alert. 4 then 5 then 6: you are almost back to ordinary reality. You feel excited and ready to get on with your day. 7 then 8 then 9: you feel the lift pause for a moment. You take a deep breath. The lift slides upwards and you see the number 10 appear on the door. You take a few moments to steady yourself then slowly stand up and leave the lift

You are back in your body in a comfortable position. Remain where you are for a few minutes to reorient yourself to the ordinary world.

Now, make notes on your experiences in your magical journal, jotting down what you heard and saw and how you felt. Note down any images or symbols you saw even if they don’t make sense to you now. Their meaning may become clearer in the coming days and weeks.

You can return to this place as often as you wish. Or the lift can take you to different places. You may want to meet a deity or guide in your special place to ask for information or advice.

Often we feel like we are just making things up when we are undertaking an activity such as pathworking, However, it doesn’t really matter. Useful insights will definitely come from time to time and, as the experience is usually relaxing and fun, nothing is lost even if not every ritual results in an A-ha moment.

Active Imagination

Active imagination is a concept developed by Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. It’s a method for engaging with the symbols, narratives and figures that inhabit our unconscious, allowing them to come into conscious awareness. The process involves engaging with the unconscious in a mindful way, allowing thoughts, images, or fantasies to emerge freely, without conscious control, in order to gain psychological insight and facilitate personal growth.

The following ritual uses elements of Jung’s active imagination but you can add any ritual aspects that align with your practice such as creating a sacred space before you begin.

Active Imagination Ritual

What you need

All you need for this practice is a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and a notebook and pen to write down notes. You may also like to create a sacred space before you start by cleansing or casting a circle but this is entirely optional and not part of Jung’s practice. You can also use relaxing nature sounds, incense or candles to help you relax and get into a suitable frame of mind to access your unconscious.

Step 1: Preparation

  • Choose a comfortable and quiet place where you can relax without interruptions. You can sit in a chair or on the floor or lie on a bed.
  • Allocate a specific amount of time for the practice. Starting with 15-30 minutes can be effective.
  • Begin with a relaxation technique that works for you, such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation. The goal is to reach a state of calmness where the mind can freely wander.

Step 2: Entering the Imaginal Realm

  • With your eyes closed, turn your attention inward and invite images, figures, or symbols from your unconscious to emerge. This might be something that’s been on your mind recently, a dream figure, or any symbol you’re drawn to.
  • Allow these elements to unfold in your mind without trying to direct them. This process is not about creating a narrative but rather observing what naturally arises from your unconscious.

Step 3: Engagement

  • Engage with the images or figures that appear. You might ask them questions or allow them to lead you on a journey. Pay attention to the emotions, sensations, and thoughts that arise during this interaction.
  • If a figure appears, try to initiate a dialogue. Ask it what it represents, why it has appeared and what message it has for you. Be open to receiving any answers, even if they don’t make immediate sense.

Step 4: Reflection

  • After exploring these images and interactions, gently bring your focus back to your ordinary state of consciousness. Take a moment to ground yourself, feeling the floor, bed or chair beneath you, and when you’re ready, open your eyes.
  • Write down everything you remember about your experience as soon as possible. Include details of the images, conversations and feelings experienced during the process.

Step 5: Interpretation

  • Spend time considering what you’ve written. Look for patterns, symbols and potential meanings related to your wider life experiences, challenges or goals.
  • Try to understand the messages or insights provided by your unconscious. This might involve researching symbols, discussing your experience with a therapist, or simply contemplating its personal significance over time.

Step 6: Integration

  • Consider how the insights gained through active imagination can be integrated into your daily life. This may involve making changes in your behaviour, re-evaluating your values, or simply carrying a new awareness into your everyday experiences.
  • Active imagination is a skill that deepens with practice. Regular engagement can facilitate ongoing personal growth and a more harmonious relationship between your conscious and unconscious mind.
Eva May Baker
Eva May Baker
Hello, and welcome to The City Witch, your portal into the magical world that exists within the hustle and bustle of city life. My name is Eva Baker and I am an urban folk witch, author and your guide on this magical journey.

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