Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How I Accidentally Became A Toadwitch.

This season is, I am not ashamed to admit, the most sacred time of year for me. It has always been during this time of year that things "happened" for me, and so that has informed decisions and timing for a long stretch of years. It's also the time of year where I get free-er with my tongue, and tell stories I would not ordinarily tell. 

On the Menu are three stories, starting with the strangest, and ending with the most reasonable. 

I Want To Post A Clear Disclaimer Here.
I am not posting about this to brag, nor encourage. I've removed details, spirit-guidance, and waymarks that are necessary to making anything happen. I have done this so that only those who have the proper who are called may come. 

I doubt many people who have claimed to perform this rite really have. The actions of this rite shape themselves - details emerge that are not spoken of by even Chumbley, but are consistent with those who have performed it.
Of those who went through the actions, I doubt many did the inner work. This rite cannot be performed in actions alone. The spirit work behind it is required for it to have any effect, any success, and any impact.
Of those that actually did the actions, and the inner work - I doubt many actually had success. They speak of it too fondly, to gently, and too lazily. This rite is not to be played with- if you do not have the stars right, and the permissions in place, it will exact a serious toll on you. If you are not secured like a vault, impervious to the assaults that come with this rite, it will devour you. IF you are not mentally balanced, it will unhinge you (when the insects in the night start to speak to you, good sirs, I challenge you to keep your shit all in a row).

There are a million other ways to get the same "results" - all of them a far better, safer, saner, and more accommodating to not getting your world wrecked.  Once it is started, it cannot be aborted. It has to be seen through until IT, not the witch, the rite itself, decides that it has concluded. This rite is best described as Lovecraftian in nature. It is a crash course, a hard-wiring, and a quick butcher job to jack someone in. It is utterly, utterly, unfriendly.


So, Here's How I Went To The River.
I did not set out to be a Toadwitch. I did not want the obligations or the fussiness around the rite. I did not want to find myself in the same category as other self-professed Toadwitches ("I happily rode a lot of bandwagons until the wrong person got on" - Penn Jillette). But mostly? I didn't want to raped to death by tentacle monsters - and everyone would have you believe this is the only outcome of the The Waters.

It was February. The temperatures were already back into the reasonable category and that's usually enough for me to start the work. This work is not witchy, per se, but feeds into my practices. The Work is cleaning out the small fish pond in my front yard. It had started to stink. It Had To Be Cleaned. I do this at least once, but usually two or three times each year. It, in and of itself, is a sort of seasonal devotional taking place at "the start of spring" and another "when fall happens". It all depends on the natural shift of the seasons, which do not so neatly follow them thur traditional Eight Sabbats.

Cleaning this pond isn't as simple as draining and rinsing it - it involves layers of fallen leaves that must be dragged out by hand, and almost inevitably painful bites from aquatic larvae. I have to do this to keep the pond's tiny ecosystem healthy. It is a watering hole for wildlife and birds, a breeding ground for frogs and toads and the "unofficial temple" for the Land Spirits. For them, and for the critters... I do the deed. It's dirty,  and usually involves sticking my hand right through something dead.

February 26th, 2011. 
I was up to my elbows in the muck. It was black as coal, made of decomposing leaves and rotten meat, and the roots of water lilies. Something softer than leaves, and cooler than the black water, brushed my arm. I twisted, and gripped, and out it came - it's back was black as the shadowy moon, it's belly as bright as the full.
I found the frog near the bottom of the pond. I assume it - SHE[1]- had hunkered down there for the winter and encountered a cold-snap that was unexpected. Like any leopard frog in it's winter colors, her back was nearly pitch black, and her belly was a creamy white. I laid her out beside the pond and finished my work, coming back to eye her. I'd been weighing something for a while - pursuit of The Waters Of The Moon, also known as The Toadbone Rite and other euphemisms and hints concerning watery places. In most of the South we don't make distinctions between species of frogs and toads. Generally anything that fits the description of either is called, helpfully enough, an "Toadfrog" or just a "Frog", so this frog was suitable for the rite, but was the rite suitable for me?

It took me an entire day to weigh things, and I decided I was not going to pursue it. It was not going to happen, I was not going to be a part of it. Too many variables, like "permission" and "suitability" and "consequences". Instead, I was going to make this creature an offer to become a Familiar.

Feb 27th, 2011.
It was all empty inside, water flowing from the nose and mouth. And into this emptiness I called to something, and it became full. 
The Familiar-Process is lengthy, there are multiple variations and none of them are something I'm going to publish in any detail here [2], but I'll explain a few things from the way I work: When an animal dies, it's spirit can either retain some recognize-ability ... or it'll hollow out. The more "wild" the animal, the more instinct-driven, and the more unknown it is - the less it retains. Nature reduces, disassembles, and recycles EVERYTHING, even spirits. So, into a ready-made shell with only a small amount of form and function left, I placed something with a personality.
With thorns I pinned it down on a hill, crucified, and covered from prying eyes. And then I waited for the Little Ones in the Hill to take away the flesh.
I pinned the carcass, a little too "mature" in it's state of decomposition to dissect, to an ant-hill beyond the border fences between my "yard" and "the woods" to be consumed. I used carved, needle-sharp, pins made of fire-hardened wood, and covered the grisly tableau with an inverted, heavy, pot. And then? I waited.

And then came secret things, and dealings here unfit.
The ants, they did nothing. I did work with the spirit-in-the-bones, who was undergoing a metamorphosis. The carcass was dehydrated from the scalding summer. And so, into the maceration jar it went. I waited a month, and washed the bones. They reeked - rotting frog is like rotting mouse. There's just no way to handle it amiably.  I wrapped my scarf (a black and yellow striped affair) three times around my nose and mouth, and went to the work. The jar was full of bones, and rotted tissue... and little black spots. I brought the bones inside, and began running a stream of water through the tray, and poured the bones out. One bone floated and began to hiss - not a dry bone, a wet bone - and it began to move against the flow of water.
"NO! Oh, NO! Oh HELL NO. I didn't set out to do the Toadbone rite, you fuckin bones!" I shouted. "This doesn't mean ANYTHING!" 
The bone just hissed and moved a good fourteen inches up the tray. I picked up the bone, and put it in the sorted box. And with tweezers and patience got all of the other bones (except the littlest, tiniest, toe-tips... those were hard to see). [1]And still, there were the black spots - and it occurred to me somewhere in the hours spent hunched over the tray, that these black dots were eggs. My toadfrog was a lady.

The Waters Of The Moon.

"Frog 1" was found on the dark moon. Her bones were washed and dried on the dark moon. And for a month or so, the single - defiant - bone taunted me. There were dreams, nightmares, omens, and all sorts of shit without bodies suddenly taking an interest in me. I asked friends, I asked spirits, I asked gods, I asked the Frog. And they all essentially said the same thing: Maybe it is The Rite, maybe it ain't... but you damned well need to finish it just in case.

And so, on the cusp between the Harvest and Blood moons, I took up the bone and sealed it in a vial. And I tied the vial up with cord and strung the cord with bone beads. And I tied it around my throat. It felt like it weighed ten pounds, and dug in at all the wrong angles. For an entire week I fasted, and worked, and for five nights I went out and held my vigil.

On the first night I learned the language of the Al Azif. On the second night I heard the secrets of Those Who Go Under Skins. On the third night I spoke to the dead. On the fourth night I spoke to the never-born. On the fifth night I sucked the marrow from the bones of devils.

The vial became light as air.
Afterward.

My breath hung up in my throat. My lungs filled with fluid. My sense of smell vanished. My sense of taste vanished. My eye sight narrowed to spots in the dark. I coughed up swamp water and infection. My skin burned. "This is good" I said to myself. "This is a learning experience." I am the frog, and the frog is me. She drowned, I drowned.  She froze, I froze. She baked, I baked. She was washed clean, and so was I.  Though lingering breathing problems have persisted, resembling asthma. Gifts began showing up at my door a few days after the rite. Hunks of quartzite, skulls, bones, hagstones, boxes of candles.

She spoke to me, quietly. Ol' Ladyfrog. And she said [2]"You'll write a book about the Familiars you court. You will bind it with your own hands, and offer it to those who can see it for what it is." and so I heaped offerings on the ritual fire. I dug out scraps of slipskin - tanned hides of fetal cattle - cotton twine and paper. I cut, and measured, I snipped and stitched. I tooled and dyed and paused with my pen -  the deep breath before the plunge.

8 comments:

  1. Haunting! Thank you for sharing this. I have always been intrigued by the Toadbone rite. It is fascinating to me that you were truly made into a Toad Witch, and you didn't even go out of your way to seek it! Thank you!

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  2. Ah.

    You've been on quite the walk. And more to come, I'm sure.

    Good to hear from you again.

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  3. Beautiful, intriguing post. I've always found toads and frogs to be fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  4. fascinating, I hope the frog spirit walks with you forever :)

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  5. *gasp*

    That was spectacular.
    But I am sure it is a mere shadow of the actual endeavor.

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  6. This echos so hauntingly that even now I feel like your account of what transpires whispers in the corridors of my mind. To be MADE and not to seek.

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  7. I am slightly puzzled as to why you would think that roughly following the waters of the moon rite would not end up with a similar result as following the waters of the moon rite. The process seems to be about trapping a toad-familiar- which was your aim anyway. I am glad that you succeeded and nothing nasty happened. I have had a series of omens leading-up to this rite however I feel that I am not ready. I feel that I need to study and understand the rite better.

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    1. Actually, it's not expressly about that. It CAN be about that. Though in some versions it is about literally trapping The Devil Himself, and taking ALL of his power(how this is reconciled with multiple persons having performed the ritual I'm not so sure...), In other cases it's about taking a fractional amount of the power with the bone as an instrument of threat and torture. In still others no one is quite sure what the significance of the damned thing is, but they merrily go about the rite anyway.
      In this case I gained a frog familiar, but the bone is it's own thing - it's some other thing. It's a crown, or a scepter. It's a badge of office, or something else entirely.
      In SOME versions, deviating even slightly from the prescribed rite Ends Badly... why wouldn't I think it the case in this instance?
      Of course, above all... NEVER YIELD THE BONE.

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