I take triggers for granted. Most of that is down to the fact that I've had a number of good teachers: part is that I tend to pick things apart to see how they work. The latter is sometimes unpopular with other people - if you prefer not to think about why you light that candle, don't bother reading any further. The title, by the way, is from one of the "Windows haiku error messages" that occasionally float round the internet. I first used it in a section on alternative paradigms.
What's a trigger anyway? Answering that is bound to annoy someone somewhere, but hey, why break up a winning team? Triggers are the things that make magic work. The candle, wine, salt and incense. Or, the little bell that sounds when trans-substantiation has taken place. Or, for a sex magician, quite possibly, the sex. What would you use a trigger for? Well, the classic examples are to make a mental short-cut to a state of mind you want to be in, or away from one you don't want to be in. The classic examples are entering the state of mind necessary for working magic, raising power or casting a circle, but you can equally well use them in everyday life for relaxation or as a door to step through away from anger or fear.
A trigger is whatever you need it to be. Some of my other pages here suggest using the things in sets, rather than singly, and some give reasons. Let's lay it out. You don't necessarily want to go into a trance at the dinner table, and you don't want to start involuntary glossolalia when you pass the incense shop in Glastonbury. Okay, maybe you do: in that case build your triggers singly. But there's another reason.
Say you've got this neat "breathing the light" technique. It's way cool, and you can induce peripheral visions with it. Do you really want to? You thought it was hard to develop the trigger in the first place? Bear in mind that once you have the trigger working properly, it's even harder to destroy it and in many cases virtually impossible without outside help. (Before you ask, no, we normally don't. We have enough trouble keeping each other together.)
So the breathing technique leads directly to peripheral visions? But, hey, it'd be really nice to be able to use that technique for something else: perhaps something as mundane as pain management. D*mn, every time I try to do pain management this annoying woman keeps darting round the corner and telling me off. It's a bit like configuring a computer system - all those arbitrary decisions that didn't seem important when you started so you took the default? In fact, it's exactly like it, but don't tell anyone or all the chaos magicians out there will be putting Linux sysops out of jobs.
Instead, practice the breathing technique in combination with a relaxation technique or a way of holding your hands. Make it something that means something to you, of course. The magician's right hand is the one you'd use for the blade, in a hand-holding exercise. The left hand would be the chalice. The blade is will, or intent. The chalice is intuition. Consciously relax both hands and place one over the other (your choice, whatever symbolism works for you). Now breathe. I think the NLP people call it an anchor, but in effect what you have is a trigger that can't be stolen (unless someone actually chops your hands off, in which case loss of the trigger is probably relatively unimportant) but is relatively difficult to invoke by accident. And you can still use the breathing technique in other contexts.
An accessible example might be a ceremonial circle. Even if you've never done it, most people have seen "The Craft" or read Dennis Wheatley. It's just a place. Any place, so of course it can't be taken away from you. But for a wiccan, their circle is the most sacred place on earth. For a ceremonial magician, a place of safety. Inviolate, standing within it one is subject to a different mind-set, a different set of rules. How does it get to be that way? Well, perhaps, someone walks round it three times, chanting, and it just becomes that way.
Simple. No, not at all. Marie Antoinette, so the story goes, had a favourite milliner. She needed a special hat, like nothing else, for a special banquet. The milliner took ten yards of ribbon and wove it into a beehive. He named a price. Marie was scandalised "for just ten yards of ribbon?" she asked. So the milliner unwove it all, rolled it up and said "the ribbon, madame, you may have for free". Once I was talking to a Sri Lankan temple drummer. In fractured French, and via a Turkish translator, I was trying to work out whether the thing that sounded like a water-drum actually had water in it. The drummer dismantled it for me (there was no water) re-assembled it and showed me the strokes. "now go and practice for twenty years" he said.
That's one of the points with triggers. It's one reason why there's a traditional year-and-a-day before you can join a coven. Both sides probably know by the second meeting whether or not you'll fit. But you won't get anything out of the initiation unless you've worked with their triggers for that long. If they're going to work, you need to work with your trigger-sets regularly. You can turn bed-time into a sacred space. Or a particular candle. If you're going to invest that much effort (and to be honest, if you want to get money it's easier to go out and get a job than to work results magic for it) in something, it makes sense to ask the right questions before you start. So, three don'ts:
don't use a common trigger (like candlelight) singly - unless trance-work in a romantic restaurant is your forte;
don't use a potentially useful technique, like breathing or relaxation, on its own - unless you want invisible shouting women visiting you in casualty and adding to your woes when you've broken your arm;
don't use something breakable, or stealable, as a permanent trigger - unless you have a stable group of friends who will help you put your head back together when it breaks or is stolen;
There's a candle. Something special is happening and you want to work on it. That's fine. But don't use "candle" as your trigger, because it's too general. "This candle" is better, but it leaves you with "I've brought the candle back, but I daren't burn it again because it will eventually run out". There are times when that might be the right approach, but assume for a moment that you want this particular thing accessible forever.
Try instead "any candle if I anoint it with white wine" or "any candle made from the wax of this candle" or "any candle lit from this candle". All of them work. And I'd be denying my heritage if I didn't point out that many forms of modern wiccan symbolism are based around one or more of these.
Not only can I take the light, the candle-flame, and split it, symbolising the movement and sharing of power, but I can make a back-up copy: melt the candle down, add more wax, make two. Keep one in case I lose the other. Or, use a candle for one thing, send the stub to someone else, carrying the power with it, for use in another context. It works much like telephone sex, and for much the same reason. See, I told you I would annoy people.