Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cracking the Seed Coat.

Some seeds, the germ of life for plants, are surrounded by a thick seed-coat. This thick coat will actually prevent the seed from growing. In the end, the seed-coat must crack, so that the plant may grow. To do otherwise stagnates, and eventually kills the seed - life ceases, the potential for growth ceases.

In Paganism/Crafting, the same sort of thing exists. Our own preconceptions, misconceptions, bias, bigotry and scars form our seed-coat. They trap us into ourselves, and deny us growth. Our own over-fullness, means nothing can -get in- to let us develop into something more. We must crack, or have cracked, this hard shell.

Even then, the seedling of our spiritual path is not self-sustaining. We must weed around it so that it receives enough sun, and room to grow. We must ensure that the soil it grows in is fertile. We must keep away predatory things that might nibble it to nothing. And finally, we must work to harvest what grows from it, or it will rot on the vine.

No Pop-Pagan 101 book that I have ever seen has addressed this topic, not the self-sacrifice needed to begin on the path, nor the hard work that comes after. Most authors water down Crafting to "Do whatever works, and if it makes you uncomfortable it's evil, so don't do it."

You will get no rewards, no growth, nothing - if you do not first make an effort. In short, without cracking yourself open a little, you're just rotting in the soil. Our spiritual development challenges us to grow, and if we turn away from the discomforts (some small, some large) that come with such challenges, we never reap any sweet harvest.

Now, I also understand that it's not everyone's path to BE challenged. It's also not my path to engage those who are, for all intents and purposes, play-acting the part of pagan. I will not provide spellwork, rituals, or "fruit" from my hard-won plot for people who take a bite, chew it half-heartedly, and toss the rest on the ground.

I do feel that those embarking on any spiritual path need a warning. You'll be cracked open a little, drenched, dried, and buried. You'll watch the weaker ideas wither, and die as you harden off. You'll struggle, reach, and bring forth fruit. Maybe not a lot your first season, maybe only one or two things will come out "tasty", but look at what they went through to become ripe, full, and ready.

I'm tired of standing on a soap box - do it, or don't. But don't come banging on the door of the local Hedgewitch at god-knows-when in the morning, tear-streaked and panicked because you didn't know what you were getting into, or because you think your spells backfired, or because you can't put down what you summoned up. Grow, change, evolve, develop a pair of gonads worth having - or get the hell out of the Green.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Night Flight

I'm running, and I know there is no way I could be moving at this speed. I have a bad knee, and a heart complaint that will usually floor me well before this. The trees are whipping by me, they blur into shadows.

As I reach the edge of the deep wood, coming out on the scrub and younger growth, I leap. It is not simply that I jump, feet leaving the ground. There is a magnetic repulsion, a sense of a pull being broken, and turning to resistance. I fly.

I am rushing at great speed over the meadows, the little trailer houses below. Over vast lakes, until the world changes. The colors shift, and the air no longer stings my eyes. The world beneath me glows with a light I cannot locate. I see below me spirits, they stretch and writhe beneath the moonlight, anchored with their feet in the earth - Wort-devas. Others fill the sky with me, further and nearer. Some wear nothing, some fly on their own, some are animals or with animals. Some are astride instruments like brooms and distaffs (among them I am pleased to discover a Nimbus 2000). One rides a hobby-horse with coal-red eyes and dangling, articulated, legs.

I see a fire below, it whips with every color, and smells sweeter than any incense. In it I detect notes of Oak, of Pomegranate, and sweet gum. I smell blood, and meat, and spices. Nothing in the world of my birth has ever smelled this alluring, or sweet.

I settle to the ground, feeling the push become pull and the world accept my feet again. Here there are beasts dancing. Some are witches like myself, wearing masks or strange costumes, some are spirits who have never known flesh, clad in a manner that is designed to shock, and frighten. These people are my kenfolk (not KINfolk, KENfolk.). I join the music-making, slapping along to the rhythm on my knees. My body is my body, and is not my body. I'm neither sex, and yet both.

Someone passes a pot filled with incense. I feel it with my fingers, identifying it's contents. I know that if, when I return to my flesh, I burn this on a woodfire, I will cut a much simpler door. I won't have to fly so far, or run for so long. I will be able to stay longer, and dance more. I cast a handful into the fire, and it sparks brilliantly. A whooping cry goes up from the Host. I've made a contract, an agreement to return.

We dance, and run, and play games. I am offered wine and food which I decline. Here, I cannot eat, not that I don't want to. Everything smells so perfect, so delicious. I swear I've been offered curry - the bastards. What I eat here would disgust (if not anger) even the Kindly Host, who's appetites shock humans with ease.

Soon, off in to the West (WEST?! ... Yes, West) I see the sky begin to pale, the night is rewinding into day. So this is how we may remain here for years, and not age? Funny, I'd never noticed. This is the signal that we all need to depart. Some fall through the soil, some rise to the air on tools. Some take wing or paw. I run, run with wolves, deer, and hares. A firefly has hitched a ride on my head, flashing and laughing (clickityclick!). A howler-monkey swings from tree to tree. Our rag-tag pride enters the wood, we run until the field clears and one by one - pop -, we awaken, panting and laughing.

Who would not risk death by fire, for life by the fireside?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wildcrafting Time - Again.

The moon is waxing, and it's not quite so terribly hot that I can't -breathe-, so it's time again to do wildcrafting of herbs, curious, and whatever else I come across that sparks my interest. That whole solstice bit is icing on the cake, as far as I'm concerned.
The "haul" consisted mostly of leaves for pressing (I press, paint and frame them to make unique artwork). I got two remarkably large oak leaves (nearly 11" long), a couple Catalpa, some American Sycamore, elm and small oak. A huge portion of Horsetail reed, Black-Eyed Susans, some pomegranate blooms/leaves/stems, Coreopsis (dye flowers) and a nice portion of Wood Sorrel. I also came across a couple of lovely little land-snail shells, which are destined for beads. Some of this will be available for sale or trade, soon.

The shocker for a friend of mine (who was busily talking in my ear while I gathered stuff) were the Black Eyed Susans. They are, and I am not joking when I say this, one of the best herbs for untangling and diffusing domestic abuse. The best method, of course, is a .45 to the side of the abuser's head (though a bit overkill, I will admit), but for those of us on the outside who want to establish a more gentle method of control - Black Eyed Susans.
These bright flowers resemble the sun mid-eclipse. Representing that moment when we lose sight of all light, at the darkest possible moment, just before the sun returns. Employing them in either gentle spellwork designed to ease strife, or malicious work designed to insert honey-locust thorns covered in platypus venom into the urethra of an abuser helps to tie one's efforts into the situation at hand. They also help the person suffering the abuse to keep their chin up, which can be invaluable.

The pomegranate bits are going to be incorporated into an incense for underworld journeying work, which will be a trial/experimental run before I consider making more for wider consumption.

I also went on a bit of a 'spree', re-photographing old artwork (and new) for deviantart. I've been making small woodcraft items, pyrographing mostly, and they're turning out nice enough to be proud of. The "new" camera is also doing justice to some of my older works, so I've been replacing old images/uploads with new. And yes, that kind of stuff will be available by commission, or eventually posted up online.

Since it's the Solstice, I took note of what plants were particularly available right now for a future "Midsummer" incense. It will likely balance dark, earthy scents with light, airy ones... because with incense it's hard not to be very literal.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Weight of a Paper Crane

There is a Japanese Legend that has become folk-legend more than anything else. Pop-magick like Ouija boards. If you can fold 1,000 paper cranes, the gods are pleased with you, and will grant you one wish. Ostensibly, this wish is -any- wish within their will and power.

Therefore, 1,000 paper cranes have the "weight" of a tribal or national god.

Paper (origami) cranes are a form of offeratory and petitionary magick. When writing is included (or symbols) it also becomes sigilized. The task of folding 1,000 of these generally takes about four months of daily work for the able-bodied.

The time and effort involved in folding one crane is roughly equivalent to that involved in the planning and execution of most folk-styled spells.

Focusing one one's goal in such a way, with such a duration and regularity, would almost -have- to yield some kind of result. Power would be infused into every fold, flip and tuck. A thousand spells, infused in such a way, stacked upon each-other in wind-blown ribbons would doubtlessly please any ear that was listening as all the pleas went up.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Treading Where We Have No Business.

I live in a house with another couple who routinely babysit. The child they babysit is without structure, discipline or a grasp of inside voice, unfortunately.

As such, anything even remotely iffy (sharp, pinch-able, breakable, valuable, or "marginally inappropriate for children to look at") must be locked up in the Temple. Recently, Child has caught on to the fact that all the dangerous, sharp, fragile, things are locked up in this particular room and demands to be let in there. To which, naturally, I say "No." Child screams, babysitters scream. Everybody suffers.

When I was a wee babe I was taught not to open shut doors, "pilfer dink" around in peoples things or even go into my parents bedroom without permission. Homes, even those of close relations, were considered sacrosanct, and I wasn't to diddle about unless given express-that-instance permission. I was to look with eyes, not hands. In short, I was instructed never to muck about in places I had no business in, or did not have explicit permission to be in.

I feel that no one is taught these things anymore, especially in the occult context.

Sometimes, in the House of Power, there are rooms filled with things that are absolutely none of your business. Opening those doors, or getting tetchy when you find them locked, is the height of rudeness and bad form.

The room labeled "Wica" belongs to the Wica, and there are locks on the door. A LOT of locks. You cannot demand that the room be unlocked so you can wander around inside, picking up things, pocketing them, and wander back out. And you damned well ought not to get angry when you're told "No, that door isn't open to you. Nothing in there belongs to you. You cannot have the keys. We don't want you in our room."

There are other rooms, and those rooms might contain nothing more interesting than a collection of old boxes, or they may contain sharp, dangerous, objects you're not yet equipped to handle. Things that could permanently damage you in ways that are not fun, nor edgy. They may contain the personal belongings of Traditions, or Gods, with which you have no contact, or dialogue.

Behind some locked doors are guardians, and they're not usually the kind of being you want to fuss with. Some doors are unlocked, some are wide open. Fine. Go inside, have a look around. But go well-armed, and with knowledge. Some are open because things inside want company... for dinner.

Yes, people in the House of Power might go in and out some of these doors, but what's behind them is none of your damned business until you're invited in. Is that a difficult concept to grasp? Didn't those of us with siblings ever learn this concept as children?

A lot of occultists fail to see how they're behaving. Pounding on their brother or sister's door, screaming to be let in. Demanding it because they have a "right". Well, they don't. It's not their room, it's not their things. They have a room. It's right across the hall. It's in the same house, it looks out on the same street. It's just a different room. No better, no worse. They only want into the other room because it is closed to them, and the very idea that not everything is community property irks some individuals.

Individuals who never grew beyond ten years old, in vitriolic envy of their sibling's secrets.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Dead Road pt. 2

The person I was born as? I sacrificed her as surely as if I'd slit her throat on an altar. I asked for it. I made the highest sacrifice I could conceive of... myself, to myself. Odin-style. A deliberate, magickal, act.

It scares me a little. I'm willing to admit that. The I that I am now is not the person I used to be... hm... I am the Prestige. They were the man in the box.

My first Shamanic/Witch experience, "Awakening" for short-hand, was shattering. I have very little memory, and must rely on what other people tell me... and other people tell me some odd things. I have lamented my failing memory for years. I have small bits in the middle of a lot of nothing. I think that is because the memories I should have belonged to the man in the box... and we all know what happened to him.

People rarely talk about the hard parts of magic. Or if they do, they talk about it in a way that makes it sound spooky, mystical, and self-aggrandizing. It's the boast of the sorcerer, because lies have as much power as truth in our walk of life. But people really talking about the hard stuff, the imitation illness, or experiencing the Dark Night of The Soul? Few will walk that road, because there is no glory in the phrase "And so I woke up covered in my own filth. It took weeks for me to be able to eat normally, or sleep , but sure enough... I can see the dead now."

Death, Dying, The Dead, The Otherside, The Shaman's Little Death and The Corpse God.
There are a lot of books on Death and Dying. What I'm talking about doesn't really have a lot to do with "the dead" as in "dead people in the dirt", "Beloved Dead", "Ancestors" or any of that (though OTHER practices of mine do). It has to do with one's own SELF, crossing back and forth into the realms of the spirit, i.e. the dead. Taking that road that spirits take into and out of the immaterial world, coming and going from the body. This is something as old as the word "witch" itself. Occupying the crossroads of life and death can certainly help with working with the dead, but that was not specifically what I was talking about.

When people talk about Night Flights, Hedgewalking/riding, "leaving the body", and attending the Sabbat, they are talking about trances which push the spirit out of the body. For some, the term "Witch Power" refers specifically to the ability to leave the body, and return to it. Some witches use the forms of animals with "otherworldly" traits (crows, hares), some use their own shape.

Some folks walk in two worlds all of the time, no trance needed. We can be holding a very rational conversation with you while our double/spirit/fetch is off doing something wholly irrational. Some of us can "hedgeride" and "double-walk". Sometimes we can do both at the same time. Breathing becomes shallow, we get cold. We look dead.

Some earn this skill through careful, long-term study. They're the lucky ones. Others are driven out by force (through injury, "the little death", attack, sickness or insanity), and thereafter find that the ties that bind them to their body are weak enough to slip... or that they have been so changed that they seem split down the middle. One eye seeing spirits, and beings, the other seeing the world of their physical life.

There's more than one road. Not every road is for every person, and not every person should try to walk certain roads. I am not discussing this to encourage anyone to follow this path, or tempt these ideas. This is a "dread door" to the dwelling-place of gods and monsters. YOU are your fair into this world. You must be struck down in order to pass. You must be stripped of all your worldly glamory to enter the realm of death, and do you really want to know what the heart of your soul looks like?

Preferably, people would leave it the hell alone unless there is no other choice for them. What I'm talking about can be spoken of, it can be discussed, but it is every bit as experiential as any other Mystery, and as such, cannot be fully understood without the experience behind it. That experience is not one I would wish upon anyone, and in fact strongly caution people not to go poking about at the doorway to death, unless they actually want to -die-. This initiation happens to you, and terrible things happen when you go seeking it out to try on like a new suit.

In fact I use "The Dead Road" rather than my preferred term for these posts, because I know all too well that someone will amble by and pick up the title like a shiny bit of beach glass. They will do their neo-wicca-with-gothic-flavor and apply this label to something which bears no resemblance or connection to what I speak of. They will toy with the Words and Doors the way an infant toys with an angry dog, and they will react with the same thoughtless wailing when it bites them in the face.

In the Vampire Ritual Book (M. Belanger) one of the rituals says "Most who go into the darkness never return to the light" and the vast majority of people do not want that experience, period. Even those of us who come back from the dead road are most often not fully ourselves again. Point of fact, it is that wound (that will never heal) that lets us slip the body, and fly with the Host.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Dead Road.

I died a long time ago. I have revisited the experience often, usually painfully.

I think I can tell you when the first thing killed me: I was a young child and was (accidentally) overdosed on a prescription medication. I journeyed, and had visionary experiences so vivid and lucid that at least twenty years later... I remember. In that memory, I recall being attacked (and I think torn apart) by tiny creatures.

A few years down the line I had a violent allergic reaction to my own hormones and had to begin mega-dosing on antihistamines (see: Andicholinergic, specifically what plants cause that reaction, and take note: Antihistamines produce that response). This meant that whenever I had an allergy attack (which nearly always coincided with my menstural cycle), I essentially took a doctor-sanctioned flying ointment. My menstural cycle synced with the full moon. This, by the by, is when my lucid dreaming began.

Around the time Puberty really began to destroy my sense of self, I had another experience. A malevolent entity had been stalking around for a while, and Noob that I was, I didn't know how to defend myself. I warded, did cleansing rituals, but no book (none, not a single, damned, one) told me how to go -after- it, and make it leave me be. One night, it wormed it's way into my bedroom and attacked me. By the time things were all done, it was half-dead(er), and I discovered that I could eat the nasty things that tried to eat me.

The experience exhausted me to the point that when I finally got to sleep, I left my body. I discovered what "going out of the body" really meant. I walked in otherworlds, and met my Familiar-spirit, M. First of many guides and friends, not a one who had been alive for some time, who aided me on my dead road.

There were other events, but my memory is not the best about being linear, and sometimes I wonder if that's for a reason.

Not everyone can venture Out. There. I said it (again).

Variety is the spice and fuel of life. This world needs people who just, plain, CAN'T see the stuff that transpires beyond the oily surface of the mud-puddles. We, the people who cannot step back from the verge, NEED them. They need us. Our symbiosis is a beautiful thing.

Not everyone who can venture Out wants to go down the same roads. Some of us prefer taking the main streets, while others prefer the side-roads. Others don't mind walking a hard road, on foot... possibly naked, slathered in honey, armed with only a lit clove cigar(ette).

But most folks, well, they don't want to die. Death isn't an easy thing, it's not really fun, it's messy, complicated, and it hurts like hell. Dying, and living through it... that hurts even more, given the mental scars and difficulty articulating the experience.

They stop short of the door, halt at the gate, and turn back. POWER is terrifying. The gods are real. Magick is afoot. And magick is the domain of the in-between, and that limina is scary. That limina asks if it's to give. Blood for blood, power for power. Sacrifice brings fruits. Certain kinds of power ask far more than others. Far more than most people have in them to give.

I always resort to Lovecraftian ideas to describe the moment between plausible disbelief and dabbling, belief, and -knowing-. It is the moment the evocation goes too far, and the waters churn. It is the moment the Thing becomes physically material, casting shadows and disturbing incense smoke. It is the instant where you are jerked from your comfortable world of illusion, when the you-that-you-know is struck down.

Very few people are willing, or able, to sacrifice the ego. "Knowing" one reality for "being unable to deny" another. Very few can take the strain, which is why so many craft elaborate tales of personal greatness, with hollow cores. The Dead Road isn't for them, and that's a good thing. It's a narrow, treacherous, prickly, path... and we'd have a much harder go navigating if everyone was there, goose-necking at the sights.

Wand wave, wall feel and smudge all you like. Don't step through the door unless there is no other option in your soul, because doing so is sacrificing yourself.

It is the little death that turns the Shaman, the Witch, and the Wall-Walker half-ghost, wandering between worlds. Because someone/thing that dies, and still wanders our world IS a ghost. And like any good geist, our power to move, bend and shape exists in both worlds. We walk a crooked path, ambling between "light" and "dark", "left" and "right", "dead" and "living". We made sacrifices to be here; ourselves. Every time we cross into that world, or do something that comes out right, we've sacrificed a little of our "day world", for a little more of the Dead Road. We chip away at the ability to pretend that the other half doesn't exist.

I will go, I will sacrifice (myself to myself), and put my spine upon the soil. I will journey, and climb down the world tree. I will seem like I am dead, gone from my body, cold and refusing to wake until I return. I will wander the underworld, seeking out what the world above needs. I will rise from my little death, and bring gifts to you. I will be a ghost, a fairy, a vampire. The thing that dies and comes back, and needs more because of it. And when I have come back from the gloom, exhausted, and starving... feed my spirit. Be ALIVE, and jovial, and unconcerned with the monsters under the bed. Stop reaching for the gaping maw just beyond where the light falls.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Step away from the 'Special'.

This is going to be a somewhat hateful entry, accept that before you read onward.

Sometimes, Wiccabes really piss me off. Not Wiccans, not Wica... but rather people who half-heartedly dabble, and construct around themselves an elaborate roleplaying world, which they are the shining center of.

I have seen what appeared to be full-body materializations of werewolves. I have spoken to a material being from an immaterial world. I have looked into the maggot-woven face of a death god. I have been torn apart, infected, infested, dissolved, re-assembled and been called "Brother" by Thor himself. Instead of insisting that this means I am some grand-high-poobah, I give myself some fresh perspective.

We are all precious and unique snowflakes who accumulate into a homogeneous white drift.

Of the roughly SIX BILLION (that's 6,000,000,000, or actually 6,697,254,041) people on the earth about 99% of them believe in the supernatural in some form or another (5,940,000,000). Of that number, do you really think you're that interesting?

In my home nation there are about 307,006,550 people. Of that number, less than 1% are Pagan, Wiccan, New Age, or Witches (about 340,000). The number rises sharply each year. Of that number, do you really think you're that interesting?

Oh, how I wish we could all get together. All 340,000 of us, here in the US. And then you could say "WITCHES, ALL! I have come to tell you that I am god-sent! Today, on my way home from the graveyard shift at the Shell station on 72, I was attacked by emissaries from the Vampire Cooveen of Hatchet. They have informed me that the Veil is falling, and it is time for us to take arms against the Demons who dwell Beyond. I will be your leader, for I have been chosen by god as his angel messenger! KNEEL to my superior knowledge, for I own all of Silver Ravenwolf's books, and I've been a Pagan for two years!"

Do you think they'd care? Do you think that they would lockstep behind you, daggers gleaming in the moonlight as they went to war under your glorious banner? No. They'd laugh. A lot.

If you think 340,000 is a small number, count out that many pennies, or pixels, or seashells... or grains of sand. Put them in a jar, and any time you think that you have been singled out for greatness, look at the jar. Give yourself some fresh perspective.

We're all blind men in a cave groping for a light that was blown out, smashed, ground into the dirt, drawn and quartered, forbidden to ever be re-ignited, and covered in a mile-thick layer of cement as though it were the core of Chernobyl. The phantom-illumination we receive is our own. The more outlandish the light, the more festooned with tensil and flashing LED's, the better chance that it is an allegory for a very simple, personal, flame.