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.