Twice Born

Last year at Beltane I performed a spontaneous Dedication, knealing before a sky-god who has yet to share his name with me.

Thirteen months later, a week ago yesterday, I completed my first Initiation ritual.

It was a two-part ritual, actually: the first part being an underworld journey at the New Moon in preparation for the second, at the Full Moon, where I was assisted in my rite by three close friends. The ritual included, among other things, my first fast – twenty-four hours of bread, honey, and water (and not much of it) – and the sacrifice by abstinence of all the potential debauchery that comes with the first day of the Heartland Pagan Festival.

The fasting was both easier and harder than I thought it would be. 9pm – 9pm is a relatively easy block: I don’t usually eat for almost half of that. At the same time, though, I was packing for the festival, making a midnight drive, getting barely half a night of sleep, and finally unpacking and setting up camp – a great deal of physical labor, as I’m sure my dear readers recognize. I also had to watch everyone else eat good food, drink coffee, and christen the camp site with the festival’s first joint and beers without partaking. I almost had to abstain from the communal dinner following the festival’s opening ritual, a terrible sacrifice given the importance I place on the ritual sharing of food, but fortunately there was some bread I could share. Still, by the end of the fast, I was somewhat faint and had to be careful how much I ate lest I make myself sick.

As a lifelong solitary practitioner, I had never undergone any formal training or initiation. And although the work I have done over the last two years, formalizing and re-examining my training and practice, certainly counts for something, I had little idea what to expect. Would the ritual be transformative? Would it simply be an acknowledgement of my personal progress? Would it even work given the disparate practices of the people I had assist me?

The answer, in the end, was “yes” to all of the above.

Over the course of the ritual, I came into closer contact that I had ever anticipated with the gods I serve. I lost one guide, grown impatient with my slow progress. I … acquired? Was awarded? Met? What is the correct verb here? … another guide during my descent, and made amends with a Titan whom I had accidentally slighted. I was unmade and reassembled. Twice.

When I gave healing massages over the course of the festival, I found that the energy flowed like it never had before. I managed to soothe two sunburns by laying hands. My lady Aradia said outright that my healing work is much more potent than it was the last time I worked on her, shortly after Beltane. I have never felt so powerful or so clear as I feel now, even a week after the ritual. Slipping into trance is significantly easier than it was a bare ten days ago, so I know it’s not just practice.

So today I write, re-examining the experience again, and say to you proudly: I am a witch. Slain and remade within the Circle, now twice-born.

Ascending Practices

I am living a more productive magical life now than I have since high school, when – haphazard as it was – I was practicing nearly every day. I was almost this consistent in St. Louis – the only thing that took up more of my tiny studio apartment than my altar was my writing desk – but I was by myself, and meditation and house wards only get you so far.

My friend Chirotus invited me to help him start a magical study group about eighteen months ago. The premise was that we, as experienced and competent magicians of wildly different schools of thought, could learn a great deal from each-other by starting back at the basics. We started meeting monthly, practicing aura viewings and energy awareness, elemental conjurations (one month for each element), spent a couple months on personal shielding, and are back to aura viewings. At Samhain we started celebrating the Sabbats together, and will have celebrated half the year come Beltane. We have recently started meeting twice a month.

2020 has been the year that I’ve finally started keeping comprehensive magical journals. I’m not quite up to every day or every exercise, but I’m getting there. The things this does for my clarity and recollection are astounding. Why did I think journaling was too dorky for words? Oh, right. I was 19.

Over the course of the last semester I’ve started doing yoga every week or two. If you’ve never done an hour of meditative breathing combined with moderately strenuous physical activity, allow me a moment to highly recommend it. Last year I was doing three traditional Western work-outs a week (45-65 minutes) combined with meditative breathing. I need to get back on that: never in my life had I felt better physically.

I’ve started a daily tarot practice over the last two months. I still need to write about my thirty days of Rider-Waite. I’m twenty days into the Crowley Thoth, and while it will never be my primary, I already know I’m going to need to put in a second thirty (at least) before I can move onto another deck. My most significant insight from this so far was best put by Aradia: “You think doing daily readings will change your life, but it won’t. You still have the kinds of day you’ve always had.”

Last Beltane, I performed a formal Dedication for the first time, and at Heartland Pagan Festival, I gave up the magical name I’ve been using since I was sixteen years old. I have, at last, chosen a new name, and this year at Heartland, I’ll finally undergo a rite of initiation.

My aura sight, my tarot reading, and my clairsentience are as clear as they have ever been. My energy work is almost as potent as I remember it being in high school, just before I gave myself the migraines, and it’s a hard to say that I don’t just know so much more now than I did then that I’m just judging myself on a much harsher scale: I’ve been on spiritual journeys that I could not have even imagined then.

I think these things may actually count as progress. Evolution. Maybe even ascension.