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.


  1. I think, honestly, that a lot of people have a hard time understanding how it might be a meaningful experience, or that because such a thing is painful it's... "unnecessary" - and that very few "public" magicians, or otherwise, have really discussed the consequences of "initiations" - much less walking the Deadlands itself.

    But at least we have Burroughs. (I consider M. Belanger a tool... but, I still find myself liking that quote.)

  2. Suffering for the Art is necessary for some, for others? Not so much. I encourage people to strongly evaluate their own path and whether or not we need to go down these particular roads BEFORE we stick our metaphorical dicks in the bear trap. (and here a new rant is spawned)

    The lack of people, people with blogs "Known" or "Public" Magi not sticking SOMETHING up, yeah... it pisses me off. Some knowledge is too profound to share in text, but at the same time, some knowledge is too profound to ever be profaned by a simple "Initiation is awesome, as in "FILLED WITH AWE AND TERROR" even when done perfectly, so think before you act."

    No one takes the challenge of the sword, or any of those cautionary words seriously. Ever. They just repeat them because the "real and true Gardnerian BOS" told them to.

    On the topic of Belanger, I consider her a friend and peer, but also recognize that she rubs some folks GROSSLY the wrong way. I tend to reference her because, well... her work is out there, easy to find and actually fairly well-researched. And she's one of the few authors writing -accessibly- on these topics.

    Chumbley and Pearson are great, but I'd never inflict Chumbley's purple prose on anyone who wasn't sorely asking for it.

  3. @Scylla: We should continue this discussion in private, m'lady. dionysianatavism (at) gmail (dot)com

    Srsly. Want to continue. Can't chat here. At all.

    Also: I clearly tend to inflict my favorite witches on folks. Still. Because no one else will.

  4. The scene in "The Prestige" where the camera pans to the all the cats on the other side of the hill made my hair stand on end. I like that you used the man in the box from that film as a metaphor too. It's apt for my life also.

    When I saw the title of this and the other post, I actually thought, "Someone is going to make a book or a website called The Dead Road, and they are going to say it is Traditional Witchcraft(TM)." is still available from godaddy as of this moment. Not for long, I'll wager.

    I think the reason why so few people in magic talk about the death of the self is because few experience it. They might even have experienced it in their mundane life--for instance, by surviving a childhood of violence--but don't transfer over that experience into the spiritual or magical part of their life. Instead, it is walled off, like the body building a calcium shell around a toxin. I talk to a lot of people about a lot of subjects in magic because of my work. Death of the self pretty much never comes up.

  5. @Harold , Well... it happened before. I'd been blogging about "the dead road" (under another name) and discussing how I was going to write a book about it, and a book came out with a very similar name, and a very similar topic. Including some very similar chapter-contents. Hence why I no longer EVER openly name my tradition, and use "throw-away" words for other things.

    I think that far more people experience death of self, but are unaware of it, and wall off the experience as "trauma" rather than "violent change". Far more people willfully kill themselves by increments, and refuse to recognize what they're doing as a "Tearing down", and thus never rebuild (leaving hollow shells, barely functional...etc). But that topic is another rant for another time, I'd wager.

  6. Well, I know it's hard to see it this way, but consider that someone stole your original thinking to be a compliment. It has happened to me with my website content and for a while, there was a torrent of my website labeled with the title of the book I am working on and which I mention on the main page of my site. So I know how it feels. Crappy. It is just astounding to me when people do this in magic. They must ultimately not believe in it. Because if they did, they wouldn't dare.

  7. @Scylla: 1.5-2 years ago I was really effing depressed. One morning I woke up and ... it was a "mystical" experience, in the usual parlance, but horrible and terrifying. I can only describe it as the Cartesian coordinates of the World had all been deleted; all the definitions in every lexicon were gibberish ... I have a name for it but can't share it. I've never gotten over it, tho' often I forget about it now, but since then I've had to do *anything* it takes to survive. Don't mean anything most folks here would consider evil nor illegal; I mean magic, which had been unthinkable before; making half of it up, sticking with whatever works... Along the way I began to "feel" and "see" things that forced me to conclude that spirits, gods, the whole 9 yards and all the shit were effing real. "Somebody"--but who?--pulled all rugs out from under my feet and it was either walk the Wasteland or die. It's like being dead but other people think I'm more alive. I'd like a map but now I know maps can be "deleted" I don't trust 'em. Same with spirits, gods. Life is both gigantically richer and more precious (not depressed any more either) and damned ghastly. Mistakes are a given but eff-ups are the only way I'm able to learn. I quit wondering "why" this happened and what's the "right" thing to do just recently. The no-depression plus fact I now can (usually) cure my own migraines, e.g., or make (just night before last: it was 90 degrees, then not) the wind blow colder with galdr'd runes makes it probably worth it. Just writing this on the off chance somebody has felt anything vaguely analogous. Not many venues where that's a possibility, so thanks. Hoping my gibbers and squeaks were at the least entertaining...

  8. You are simply amazing. Seriously, you are damned cool.