Light in Darkness: A Long Unanswered Call

The temple space was erected in my craft room: an altar flanked by couches and sitting cusions, air thick with incense, and lit only by candles.  I stand outside over a secondary altar, lighting a bundle of sage to fumigate each participant before entering.  A line is forming behind Aradia, awaiting my attentions.

I know all these people: they trust and respect me.  I began the night by returning to the Headless Rite.  I should be at the top of my game.  I am not.  Neither the fumigation nor the anointing packs the punch that it should.

At last, everyone is in the circle.  Aradia takes charge and we cast the circle hand to hand.  She has been feeling less than herself, as well, and asks the group for healing and purification.  As she takes her position in the center of the circle, all rise and reach out to offer what aid they can.

One by one, most of us take our turn in the center.  This is not my strong suit.  Somehow, despite a couple spectacular successes, I have never devoted any real time to energetic healing.  Mostly, I try to keep the energy level in the circle high, so that our less experienced participants are not draining themselves needlessly.

At some point, I, too, take my turn in the center.  I feel everyone reach out to me, feel them brush the edges of my energetic body.  I try to let them in, to do the work that needs to be done.  I can’t.

At last, all who feel the need for purification have taken their turn in the center and it is time to move on.

I put on a drum track and don my visionary mask and we all drift into trance.  Well, they do.  I go nowhere.  I cannot even find the Void or my own Inner Temple.  I drift, aimlessly, trapped in my own head.   Finally the beat shifts, signaling the end of the track.  I take off my mask and wait for everyone to return to themselves.

Now is the time for divination.  My guests pair off quickly, trading tarot readings while I sit dazed.  There is a song stuck in my head again.  It’s been there off and on for days.  This is something that almost never happens to me, but it has happened like this once before.

I have to wait a while, and end up ignoring too many of my guests as I remain lost in my own head, but I finally get a reading from Odyssia – one of maybe a handful of witches I have met in the KC metro whose skills are on a whole ‘nother level than Aradia and Chirotus and myself.  The reading covered a lot of territory, but one thing stood out: in the wake of my experience over the last five years, I am without a worldview.  I have no system of reference by which to contextualize my experiences.  I need a frame.  I need a direction in which to explore.

Looking for something concrete to give me, rather than simply affirming my laundry list of questions, Odyssia pulled a new trick from her bag: a pack of note cards she is drafting for her own oracle deck.  At last, a clear image emerges.  A name.  Melek Taus.

I laugh.

The Peacock fucking Angel.

That song, you see, has been stuck in my head before.  My senior year of college, it was there for more than a solid month before I realized what it was: an offer; an invitation; a call.  From the one Power I had never, ever considered.  I grew up in the Satanic Panic, you see.  I spent the first decade of my practice defending against accusations of Devil Worship.  And now Lucifer is reaching out to me?

And yet …

The Yezidi Peacock Angel (who may or may not be Lucifer) features prominently in modern Gnosticism.  I have been flirting with Gnostic thought for more than a year.  It’s all over my art, and half my favorite writers and thinkers have been flirting with it for years.  The alien God who made everything and walked away is hard for me to embrace, and the desire to root itself in Christian heresy is not aesthetically or ethically appealing to me.  But the Archons and the Blind Idiot God who rule over the hologram of the Empire and everything that falls under its shadow … yeah. I can see that in the world.

Melek Taus, I learned that night, also features prominently in the Feri tradition, which I have looked into on more than one occasion.  Just to make things interesting.  Because I need another source of queer art and power.  (Actually, yes, I really fucking do.)

So here we go.  Down the rabbit hole I’ve been dodging since 2014.  I wanted a direction.  Now I have it.

I’m giving in to the Luciferian Gnostic urge.  I will write my own gospel and live my own myth.

Let’s wage war against the world.  Awaken the sleepers.  Fistfight heavenly powers.  Engage in cosmological terrorism.  Set ourselves ablaze and be lights in the darkness.

I’m in it to win it.  Who’s with me?

 

 

 

Beltane 2017: Fire and Darkness

Beltane.

In the imagination, the very word conjures images of fire and dancing, of May Poles and bonfire jumpers.  I dream of a feast of lovers, come together to share our sacred joy in flesh and intimacy.  My body aches for wine, and for warm sun that the Midwestern climate might deliver or deny at any moment.  At this moment, I am denied all these things, and coffee will have to do.

I want to share images of luxuriant, lustful flesh, but my friends who would model for such images are few and all far away, and I have been too impoverished to hire professionals.  I want to announce the precise date when my novel will be available — when my first “child” will be “born” — but the last edits are going more slowly than I had hoped, drug to a crawl by conflicts in other corners of my life, to say nothing of the miasma of exhaustion and depression which has lain thick over everything for the last six weeks.  I want to be reborn in the sacred fires of Beltane, but in this moment I do not know either who I am or who I want to be.

The fire in my heart has guttered, and the embers have all but gone cold.

All that remains is the fire in my belly: hungry and wrathful, a beast with many enemies, few friends, and fewer qualms.  That beast has devoured my life before.  It stalked my childhood, baited and provoked and trained by monsters that I mistook for my friends, until I did not believe that love or friendship were things that existed outside of fiction.  It reigned over my Failed Life in Saint Louis, devouring one relationship after another.

I know what needs to be done.  I must reignite the fire in my heart.  But the fuel it burns is in short supply, and all the harder to find in the darkness.

Fuel for the other fire, by contrast, glows in the dark.  It’s practically self-igniting.

So I stumble through the darkness.  I strive to remember where I came from and where I’m going, even as such thoughts fade into shadows, themselves.

Who am I?

Who do I want to be?

How do I get there from here?

How do I find the answers before the fire in my belly devours the questions?


* Some asshole will surely read this and try to tell the “Native American story” about two wolves and which one you feed.  That asshole can fuck off and die.  First off, Billy Graham came up with that shit.  Secondly, I use the fire metaphor for a reason: once lit, a fire burns so long as there is fuel and air, and if those things exist in the environment, it need not be “fed”.  If you can look at the world and not see a fuel-rich environment for rage, then you are a fool.

In Search of A Map

In the earliest days of my magical exploration, my cosmology was very simple.  There was the mortal, material, world in which I existed primarily, and the energetic, spirit, world in which it was encapsulated, and which intruded into the material at whim.  The literature I was reading at that time spoke of the Otherworld, and the astral, and the Akashik … each monolithic, undifferentiated, either identical to or incomparable with the others.  Owing to my obsession with achieving astral projection, I tended to conceive of it all as the astral plane.

As I continued my magical practice, encountering spirits and phenomena that could not fit within that simple construction, and began encountering descriptions (often shallow) of other cosmologies – the Tree of Life; the Upper, Middle, and Lower worlds; competing theological visions – I incorporated these other realms as layers running parallel or perpendicular to the mortal world, or wholly elsewhere… perhaps as separate realms, floating distinct and distant in the astral sea.  In retrospect, I am embarrassed how much my personal cosmology was shaped by role-playing games.  But however ill-pedigreed it may have been, that multi-layered map succeeded in describing the world I actually saw, where no other really did.

Years passed.  My practice waxed and waned, and waxed and waned again.  I became isolated, finding few pagans practicing serious magic, and – as I became ever more queer – finding pagan spaces increasingly hostile to my gender.

I began studying shamanic visionary practice, and finally achieved the out-of-body experiences that I had craved since I first began studying magic ten years before.  And, somehow, without even noticing, I bought into the implicit cosmology: a Middle World, where mortals and land spirits dwell; an Underworld, full of the dead and demons and trickster spirits and cthonic gods; and an Upperworld, populated by angels and sky gods and archetypes and ascended masters.  It did not do as good a job of describing my own experiences, or the experiences of my friends, but the practice seemed to require a certain commitment to the metaphor, and after a couple years I forgot some of the subtitles and vagaries that had previously defined my personal map.

Then came the ceremonial experiment, and my complete inability to buy the Tree of Life cosmology, and my eventual emphasis on conjuring spirits of the planetary spheres.  The Platonic planetary spheres were even less adequate to describe my previous experiences than the “shamanic worldview”before it, but it was operationally effective.  Once again, being a terrible Chaos Magician, I bought in.

Somewhere in the temporal mess of the above two paragraphs and the decade they represent, I was shown a vision of the cosmos.  All such visions are suspect, and this one was doubly so as it conformed more closely to one of my previous worldviews than any I have heard described before: a black-skinned goddess, hair in dreads and face obscured by a wooden mask, lifted me up into the sky and showed me a vision of the Earth, made up not of tidy layers or ascending spheres, but of lines of force and raging currents and irregularly shaped planes, all jammed together around and through one another, some vast beyond imagining, some trully infinite, and some shockingly small.  In this vision,  the mortal world was formed by the places where those lines and planes and currents intersected most densely, and the Otherworlds extended outward beyond the material.

Now, almost fully extracted from the ceremonial experiment and the painfully regimented structures in which I inadvertently bound myself, I find myself going over old notes and dredging up near-forgotten memories and magical techniques which defy the cosmologies in which I have spent the last five to ten years.  I find myself in need of a new cosmology.  I need a new map.

The map is not the territory: there are subtitles of texture and meaning and contrast that a map simply cannot convey.  There are regions inadequately represented, and at some point editorial decisions of scale and significance must be made.  That does not mean it is not helpful to have one.

The world exists.  Get in your car and drive in any direction, and there it is.  Perhaps you will find yourself in Dullsville, or a Cave of Wonders.  But without a map, that experience drifts free without anchor.  Perhaps you will avoid Dullsville in the future, or perhaps you will somehow find yourself there again and again because the road looked more appealing at the outset.  Perhaps you will manage to return to the Cave of Wonders, or perhaps the angle of sun or rain that drove you down that road will never again align in your favor, and it is lost to you forever.

I recall the vision I was given with sharp clarity, and relate it often as one of the most profound magical experiences of my magical life, but I have not managed to … internalize it.  To see, it seems, is not, in fact, to know.  I need a map.

So I ponder.  I recall the times I have wound my way through magical defenses by stepping sideways.  I turn the worlds I have seen over and over in my mind.  And I keep that vision in mind.  I think of ghosts, and shadow people, and all the phenomena I have seen and experienced which never rested comfortably in the maps I have used before.  I recall, also, the experiences of others that have been related to me – ancestor works, and godspouces, and cryptids, and alien abductions – which must also be accounted for if my map is to be useful.

Art may serve me better, in this quest, than science.  But I shall pursue it with all of both that I can muster.

Rear View: Twenty Years of Magick

A few days after Samhain I will be thirty-six years old and, give or take a few months, I will have been practicing magic for twenty years.

My studies started a few years earlier, when I was thirteen.  Astrology books.  Chariots of the Gods.  But I didn’t dive in.  Not right away.  I think it was my sixteenth birthday when I bought my first Tarot deck and my copy of the Necronomicon, and not long before or after that when started trowling internet message boards and archives for non-theistic magical techniques.  But, then as now, my first and best resource was the people around me: empaths and energy workers who taught me things I’ve never, rarely, or only recently seen in books or even blogs.  I’ve told this story – all these stories – before, I’m sure; in bits and pieces, at least.

Elemental energy and crystals in the halls of Lawrence Free State High School.  Dragons and dragon-kin in the coffee shops Downtown.  The realms of the dead and otherworldly lights in cemetaries and along the railroad tracks.  Circle-casting and Ouija and aura-reading and my first group circles with the KU Wicca-Pagan Alliance.  My first adventures at Heartland Pagan Festival, as early as 1999.  My first shamanic visionary experiments in St.Louis, and my first attempts to reach out ot the gods.  Past lives and glossolia and love and lust and loss.

In some ways, though, I feel like I’m behind my peers.  I cant pretend that I was practicing dilligently that enitre time, or that my experiments were always well thought-out.  Others who started their practices around the same time have published books and are running classes and conferences.  Some have even established enire schools of thought.

In retrospect, I wish that I had been bolder.  I knew, even at the beginning, that things could get so much stranger than they already were, and the fact of the matter is that I was afraid.  One of my earliest compatriots came from a New Age family whose matriarch was hard for the White Light, and savagely against anything with the slightest risk of a neutral spirit encounter, let alone a potentially complicated or unsettling one.  Her fear, transmitted through my friend, combined with my own native sheepishness – prior to begining my magical practice, I had been a downright boring kid, however strange I might have been – to severely limit my explorations at the earliest stages.  Later, when I joined the WPA, my trunkated explorations were still the strangest thing most of my peers had ever seen, and I felt no need to push forward in that context.  All in all, I missed the prime exploratory years wherein youthful ignorance and madness overlapped with near-adult intellect and ambition.

I won’t be behind the power curve forever, though.  I’ve spent the last few years really stepping up.  My first, ill-fated student in 2008, when I first came bacck to KC after my failed life in St. Louis.  The Proto-Coven, shortly after, with Aradia and Chirotus and D and Pasiphae and Aidan.  The Ceremonial Experiment and those first workshops from the Sunrise Temple.  My work with the Heartland Spiritual Alliance since graduating college and coming back to KC – I’ve learned so much from my work with the Sacred Experience Committee already, and I’ve easily got another year or two in me before that burns me out.

I’ve started teaching workshops on spirit conjuration at Heartland Pagan Festival and Spirit Circle, hoping to spread that skill wider in the local Pagan community.  And then there are the masks.  Those experiments have barely begun, and I have no idea where they will take me, but … I know that something really, trully exciting waits down that road.  The Nine Muses multi-mask (which I still haven’t written about) at Festival this May really proved that.

It’s been a hell of a ride.  A good life, even.  I feel like I’ve forgotten more magical techniques than some people will ever know.  This is a tragedy, not braggadocio.  As I wind up my most recent Back-to-Basics programme, reading Andrieh Vitimus’ Hands On Chaos Magic (possibly the best single-volume magical handbook I have ever seen) and cruising through the archives of Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole and Aeon Byte and a handfull of other podcasts (for some reason, podcasts are easier on my madness, lately), I keep having the surreal experience of, “Oh, yeah!  I used to do that!  Why did I stop?”

Looking back on it all, it is natural for any human brain — let alone that of a novellist — to try to extract some sort of narrative or lesson.

I was “raised”, so to speak, in the heyday of solitary ecclectic Wicca, and somehow missed Chaos Magick on the first pass.  I have watched magical but ahistorical Paganism wane, somewhat, in the face of more academically savvy but often explicitly anti-magical reconstructionist and devotional polytheisms.  I have watched, albeit from a bit of a distance, the rise of the grimoir revival and an apparent resurgance of lodges, orders, and covens.

When I started, American Pagans, under the lingering influence of Second Wave feminism, were often clueless in regard to issues of race and class, and ill-equipped to deal with queer genders and sexualities, but in general were well-intended and willing to listen and change.  Over the last two decades, though, a strong split has risen between those inclined to justince across racial, class, gender, and sexual lines, and those who allign themselves, either actively or by inaction, with the White Nationalist resurgance in both the United States and Europe.  And with the rise of the “Alt” Right (that is, the “new” trend of disdaining dog whistles in favor of being openly evil), those whose chief politics are respectability are rushing swiftly towards the Nazis.

I am still young.  My political awakening has been relatively recent.  And the politics and history of the last hundred years is a mess of classified, redacted, and falsified documents.  I’m honestly not 100% sure what happened.  My inclination is to say that, after having already taken a hard body-blow from the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, the 9|11-inspired resurgeance of Christian Nationalism and the resulting death of the Anti-War and Environmental movements created an environment in which the best parts of Modern Neo-Pagan Witchcraft and Religion were severely hobbled, and the worst parts (which were always there) were given fertile fields in which to grow.

Fuck.

Twenty years.  Magic and, by extension, Paganism have been the center of my life for twenty years.  Way more than my “adult” life.  Twenty years of power and ecstacy and madness and love and lust and tears and visions.  Even when I was not actively practicing, when I was lost in depression and anxiety or the chaos of mortal life, my life was defined by magic and/or the lack thereof.

The only thing I’ve been doing longer, the only thing that means as much to me, is writing.  Did I know what I was getting into when I started?  Of course not.  Would I have done it if I did?  I like to think so.

Twenty years, now.  Four cities across three states.  Three hard resets of my practice and cosmology.  More friends gained and lost and more psychoctic breaks than I can count.

Thank you, all of you, who have been here with me on the road for any amount of time.

Thank you, even more, to those whose paths took you far away.  I miss you more than I can say, even if some of you would not be prepared for my new genderqueer polyamorous marginal life.

Let’s rais a glass, friends, to twenty years of magic.  And swill it down to the promise of at least twice twenty more.

Witchcraft is Transgression

Witchcraft is transgression.

We are not “just like them”.  Though we may wear their clothes, to do so is a mask which must be discarded each day at the first opportunity lest we lose what we are.

We are the darkness.  We are the ecstasy.  We are the song in the night.  We exist to rend the veil between worlds.

Never forget: there is more to life than your mortgage.

Witchcraft is transgression.

The Roman Empire gave up the Old Gods and knelt before of the One.  The Greeks gave up the Mysteries in favor of the Savior.  The Norse abandoned traded their sacrifices in return for the keys to the Kingdom of God.

Do you honestly believe that the Mysteries lead to empire?  Do you honestly believe that the Old Gods will bless the empires of the One?

Take up arms against the oppressors, not against your neighbors.  There is no place for patriots among Pagans.  If you love your country, go back to Jesus.

Witchcraft is transgression.

Neither sex nor gender are cosmic principles.  Does a prokaryote have a penis?  Does a cactus have a cunt?

Your body is not your destiny.  You are not what your parents and their doctors told you that you must be.

Gender is a toolbox.  Build your identity with your bare hands.

Witchcraft is transgression.

Reject materialist values, not the material world.

Feast upon the bounty of the harvest and the hunt.  Sing your joy and scream your rage.  Dance for the sun and cry before the moon.  Love all that you can.  Fuck all that you will.

The dead envy the living for a reason.

Witchcraft is transgression.

Wage war against the Archons.  Wage war against the Machine.

We will survive by whatever means are necessary.

We must dance on the bones of the empire.

Assimilation is death.

Witchcraft is trasgression.

What is the Work?

Again again again I come back to this question.

What is the work?

Simple question, on the face of it.  So many dangerous non-answers.

I ran into an old friend over the weekend.  She said some things to me that made me want to scream.

“It sounds like you’re exactly where you need to be,” she said.  Then ahw proceded to tell me what I needed to do instead of what I’m doing now: find a new home festival, if Heartland has become all work; go to other festivals to see how they do things (how are those two not murually exclusive?).  I asked her how her life was going, and she changed the subject.

Running into D struck me as an omen of sorts.  There’s a conversation we get stuck in every time we talk about life: “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing,” she’ll say to me; I’ll respond, “What do you want?”  We didn’t actually have that conversation this time — or perhaps we did, obliquely and by inversion — but I couldn’t not think on it.

Since the end of the Ceremonial Experiment and the decomissioning of the Sunrise Temple, I have been spiritually adrift.  My magical practice has ammounted to repeating the Experiment in miniature —  powering through RO’s Seven Spheres when it came out last year; attempting to code-switch planetary conjuration into the language of Witchcraft at the beginning of this year.  My spiritual practice has consisted solely of orchestrating the rituals for Heartland Pagan Festival — playing priest to the community, a role to which I have long aspired, but somehow to the exclusion of my personal spiritual pursuits.

I keep coming back to the same to questions.  Where do I go from here?  What is the next phase of the work?  The blog has suffered for it even more than my life.  Existential angst is not the writing mode that I do best.

I have been seeking teachers again.  But there are a number of reasons that so many of the books on magic are exclusively 100-level beyond the obvious American (and, perhaps, to a lesser degree Anglophone) prefference for shallow knowleged.  At a certain point you must cross the line from the techniques of magic into the experience of the Mysteries.

I have found some inspiration in the recent works of Gordon White and Peter Grey.  But Peter Grey, however brilliant his writing, is too much the cishet fuckboy: for every brilliant illumination he provides, there is an overlong passage of literary masturbation wherein he gets so caught up in his own language that he forgets his point, on the one hand, and some casually awful straight man bullshit on the other.  And Gordon White, for all his Chaote brilliance and animist awakening, is too comfortable with the lingering structures of empire and his emphasis on ancestors is a place that I have not yet been able to follow.

And there, of course, obvious directions that I could go from here.

Going back to basics (again) would probably serve me well.  Struggling to meditate means you need to meditate more, right?

Leaving my body was my greatest aspiration when I fist began practicing magic.  I never quite got the hand of “astral projection” techniques, but I am unconvinced that the shamanic visionary techniques I did, once, excell at were taking me to a fundamentally different place.  And yet… I have let htat practice slip.

I have a small cadre of familiar spirits accumulated throughout my visionary and ceremonial practices, all of whom probably have something to teach me if only I were talking to them.

 

I have a collection of masks, maked in frantic, mantic fever, each of which has some purupose that I have not yet unlocked, and which is probably more subtle and potent that the production of occult art.

I have drawn Powers and spirits into the bodies of others, almost too casually, but I have only experienced trance-possession, myself, and handfull of times: once Death, once my Natal Demon, twice a Sun God, all by the aid of masks, and, most recently, the Nine Muses followed by Typhoeus as a part of the Air and Water rituals this year’s festival.  And yet, it was long considered the defining feature of moder neo-Pagan witchcraft.

There are gods and powers I have encountered in my practice whose interest in me I never managed ot understand.  The Intelligences of the Moon.  The Witchmother and Witchfather — the latter possibly Lucifer, the latter whom I never idenitified.  The Queen of the Deap Water.  Certain Solar powers.  Rhea Cybele.

And Dionysus, who has shown me small favors yet always remained aloof.

A clever reader, of course, sees not an overabundance of options, among which one cannot chose, but rather an escalating programme that I should be pursuing.

And yet … the dillema remains.  How do you meditate when panic rises every time you try to still your mind?

This is the work.

 

Producing a Lexicon of Queer Witchcraft

This post was originally written several years ago, while I was still in the Sunrise Temple.  For some reason I can’t recall – possibly because it didn’t tie in neatly with the Ceremonial Experiment – I decided to post it exclusively to my Tumblr.  I repost it here, now, because I was looking to link to it as I was drafting my response to the Ruth Barrett issue and was irate that I couldn’t find it.  It was, probably, my most popular Tumblr post, and I think that the discussion is still relevant, and I am still struggling to think clearly in the wake of post-festival and post-tragedy collapse.  The below post has been slightly edited for spelling and grammar.

This is a thing that has been on my mind for a while, and I’m going to float it here before I begin drafting a larger post for the main blog.

I know for a fact that I am not the only genderqueer witch who doesn’t fit comfortably under the trans umbrella.  I strongly suspect that many like me share my struggle to find language to describe their experiences.  The one word I know that comes close to describing the way in which my spirituality and gender identity intermix–Two-spirit–is not mine to use.  Being a Classicist, though, I have access to two whole lexicons from which to less problematically adopt words:  Attic Greek and Classical Latin.

Let me, therefore, propose a word for those of us whose spiritual genders embrace a combination of masculinity and femininity: digenes, from διγενής.  Literally, it renders as “two kind”, but is more commonly taken to mean “of dual or ambiguous nature”.  For those who wish to explicitly embrace a broader spectrum, the neologism polygenes (πολυγενής) can be coined: many-natured.  If you don’t like genes, phusis can be used: diphues (διφυής) or polyphues (πολυφυής): literally two- or many- natured.  Digenes is historically testified to describe Dionysus (citation pending), and diphues to describe Eros in the Orphic Hymn.

So: the proposal:

digenes, diphues, polygenes, and polyphues

Attic/Koine Greek borrow-words and neologisms to describe the experience of genderqueer spirituality for those of us whose traditions do not come equipped with such words.

Looking for the Labyrinth

This weekend, I attended my first Gnostic Catholic Mass with the local chapter of the OTO.  Because my timing is sometimes awesome, there was a group in from Omaha to see three of their number baptized, which really elevated the initiatory current of the rite.  I could get into a detailed analysis, but that’s not why I’m here today.

The ritual was beautiful and powerful.  I definitely enjoyed the power-up.  I’m glad I went.  There were good people there.  I will almost certainly go again.

But it’s not home.

I spent half the ritual itching to go home and do witchcraft.  To light candles and beat a drum and chong out my altar room with incense and oil smoke.  To pour libations and swill wine with the gods.  To leap the hedge and descend the World Tree and seek once more the realms beneath the Earth.  I want to walk the winding paths of the labyrinth.

Instead, though, I struggle to meditate.  My dreams elude me.

I stand before my altars and stare, futile, even as I stare at the blank page.  Should I draw or write?  What project needs my attention first?  How do I even?  How do?  What do?

I want to burn the world.  I have to tools.  And yet my hands shake.  The circle trembles.  My heart hammers in my chest.  Where do I begin to begin again?  I am paralyzed by indecision.

I cannot find my voice.  I cannot find my way back to the labyrinth.

 

What A Wizard Knows About Death

We don’t know much in the way of details, but this much seems to be clearly known among witches and magicians: life, in some form, extends beyond the mortal material coil.  We existed before we were born.  We shall continue to exist after we die.  There are things out there in the Void waiting (with various degrees of patience) for us to return “home” to them.

It’s come up a few times before.  I seem to remember a few major players talking about it while I was off in the Sunrise Temple.  But what’s gotten me thinking about it a lot, lately, is coming back to the magical blogosphere and discovering that Gordon had started a podcast while I was gone.  (Yes, I promptly marathoned the catalog, why did you even ask?  And this is only the first of several Rune Soup inspired musings, so buckle up.)  It’s one of the subjects he dwells on a lot in his conversation with Alex Tsakiris, but what really stuck in my head was the conversation with Cat Andrews, where he called certain knowledge that there is existence beyond life and death the”door prize” of practicing magic.

Which, after a moment’s consideration, really goes a fair distance in explaining just how weird magicians are.  When I started practicing, just a hair short of twenty years ago, the belief in reincarnation was universal in the literature I got my hands on, and the exploration of past-life experiences was all but expected of a young faun such as myself.  Whatever one thinks of the content of one’s earliest past life regressions from a more knowledgeable and experienced position, the effect of the absolute certainty in life before birth and after death conveyed by those experiences is very difficult to overstate.  If I had feared death before those experiences — which, as an adolescent assigned male at birth, I probably didn’t fear as much as I should have in the first place — I certainly didn’t after.  And there’s a word for people without the “appropriate” fear of death and dismemberment: fey.

For myself, I was always more interested in the “I existed before I was born” half of the equation than the “I will continue to exist after my death” half.  After all: I’ll get to the latter, one way or another, sooner rather than later, regardless of what I have to say on the matter.  In the meantime, I want to live this life and remember the old ones.

But, now that it’s been pointed out to me, I can’t help but dwell on the consequences of that knowledge and how it shapes the people who possess it.  The certainty of existence frees us to pursue our convictions and ambitions.  And it makes, by interesting contrast, the lack of such conviction in most ostensibly religious Americans quite clear.

On the reverse, it makes me really wonder about the experiences of those few magicians I have encountered who did not believe in reincarnation or an afterlife.  Do they operate exclusively on psychological and cybernetic models of magic?  How do they explain the phenomena that do not fit within those rubrics?

In the end, though, all those questions are academic to me — or, better yet, conversations to be had over a beer or five.  I know that I was.  I know that I am.  I know that I will be.  What I’m really excited about is the process of being.

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Goddess and Consort (c) 2015 Wormwood Groves Photography

The Sun versus Depression

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Midwestern Gothic 22 by Wormwood Groves Photography

When Aradia and I set out to spend the year re-exploring planetary magic and reframing it in terms more accessible to witches, we started with the Sun for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, we were beginning at the Winter Solstice: the return of the Sun or – depending on how you frame things – the be beginning of the waxing year.  Secondly, from a naturalistic standpoint, if there is any planet that rules the heavens, then it is the life-giving Sun around whose gravity all the other planets revolve. Thirdly, as witches, the Sun is familiar and friendly to us, second only to the Moon.  And, finally, we had hoped that the Sun would help me overcome the deep depression that overshadowed the second half of 2015.

In this last, we found a ourselves to be very wrong.

There are a lot of reasons.  The crash after leading the main rituals at Heartland last year (an event that I still haven’t written about).  My house flooding in the Biblical rains we had here in KC from April through June.  The implosion of a long-standing friendship.  Family drama, in part political, in part related to the problems with my house.  Financial troubles.  All manageable, even taken together, except … I just didn’t have it in me.  This has been one of the worst years of my life for my mental health.

Here in the depths of winter … even the Sun wasn’t enough.

There were days … weeks when I considered abandoning the project altogether.  I thought that perhaps I should switch to an elemental experiment, to better prepare me for the rites of HPF 2016.  It got to where just walking into the room with the altars gave me panic attacks.

In retrospect, I think that conjuring the Sun at the Winter Solstice was not the best plan.  The Sun is not the Moon, where it’s ebb is the flow of a different sort of power.  The Sun is always there, holding the spinning orbs in place, and the turning of the terrestrial seasons has little bearing on the efficacy of traditional astrological magic.  But I was … am practicing witchcraft, and the turning of the seasons is the heart of that power.  And right now the Solar year is waxing,  but it is still … distant.  And cold.  And it is the warmth of the Sun that I needed to drag me out of my Abyss.

Instead, I have been climbing out of my depression the other way available to those of us without the appropriate healthcare: by what Aradia describes as the ladder of anger and anxiety.  Fortunately, most of my friends are as mad as I am, and have been very understanding of how difficult it is to be around me.

As I said, I very seriously considered giving up the experiment of planetary witchcraft.  But we did get some very solid results early on, and in contemplating the Sun I did also gain some insight into how to more effectively proceed.  More importantly, though, I remembered something I learned from all my science friends: negative results are not the same thing as a failed experiment.  The things I learned from this round will help me execute the next.