Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Book Stayed Empty

Courtesy bohdanchreptak at Pixabay 

A while ago I woke from a dream very suddenly, distressed and upset even as sleep shed off of me. I had been at an intimate coven gathering in the dream. We sat in the circle, perhaps before or after ritual, enjoying what looked to be a very fine charcuterie board, and sundry nibbles. Each of us tending to tasks one usually does “in circle”. Someone off beside me was grinding herbs slowly and methodically, chanting as they worked. Another was plaiting cords, the tail end hooked over their outstretched big toe. I was copying into my Book. It was the sight of the book that woke me, actually. The realization - in my semi-lucid, go-with-the-flow, state - that I knew what that little book was. It exists in the real world, y’see.

I’ve been hanging onto this book for… well… we’ll say 20 years at this point. Honestly, it could be a little more. The book itself went out of print a while ago, which is weird but also understandable since it’s a blank, lined, journal. I remember buying two of them. One was cannibalized, covered in leather, filled with handmade paper and gifted to a friend. The other, plus the original “text block” of the first, were squirrelled away, wrapped in paper, beneath my altar.

I knew the moment I saw this book that it was supposed to be with me and I even knew what it was for. It was for the book of shadows. Not “a” book of shadows, nor “my” book of shadows. Nah… it was for THE book of shadows. One of the properly-received Wiccan ones.

When I knelt at my altar and did one of the early “solo initiations” from a mass-market paperback it was done with the hope that one day I’d experience a ‘proper’ one, and fill that little book.

In that moment, saying my very heartfelt words about the whole thing (speaking directly to the gods and to those who have gone before), I felt very strongly that I needed to bring something to the table should I ever approach a prospective coven - I took this as spirit-guidance, something to do with being some specific and subtle connotation of that “Proper person, properly prepared” phrase. That went into the words I spoke - to bring to a coven no less than I would ask of a coven. I felt that if I did not have something unique, novel, and most importantly useful, to offer… then why seek it out? Why take more than I would offer in return? In hindsight such an Oath may have been something of a mistake, but… what’s done is done.

So, I learned. 

Well, then of course I got burned, badly, by many different subsets of the witchcraft and occult communities. The voices of authority never really spoke in a way that sang to my heart, and so I wondered if I belonged there at all. I was filled with knowledge that I sought on my own, trials I endured solo, and initiations between myself and rather dubious sorts.

I studied every sort of thing I could afford to have access to. Basics, sure, but also some rather out-there bits of theatrics. I learned to better sew and to draft simple patterns for robes and the like, I learned leatherworking and bookbinding a little more properly, I studied but never really properly practiced smithing, I learned simple woodworking, I already knew pottery, etc. I learned how to make masks and other costumery, how to make flash powder and pyrotechnics, different kinds of puppetry, shadow-theater, phantasmagoria, stage magic, and on and on and on.

The book, however, stayed empty.

I still have a deep respect for Wicca itself. It moves in it’s own world, orbits its own courses. There is something in that unknown country that calls out, even to this day.

It’s sitting in front of me on my desk. It’s gold filigree border striking dozens of memories so deep in my heart that they ring rather than recall. To bring nothing less than I would ask. Well, by then would I not already be my own, sovereign, priest? Would I not have already learned Mysteries? Would I not already have met Them, and known Them, and adored Them in my own way?

So, I write my own book. I fill it with the knowledge I have received, details I might otherwise forget (or already partially have), and things that I might want to preserve, should I ever pass this information onward - and I can’t think of a way more proper (for me) than through blood, sweat, and tears. Tucked into the back, behind the text block of dyed paper paper, nestled into the leather flap that wraps the whole thing shut, is the home of that empty book. Maybe still waiting, maybe a reminder.


  1. The empty book seems like a potent symbol (this being an abstract empty book, not YOUR very-real-not-just-a-symbol empty book). I'mma have to ruminate on that in my own life.

    Secondly, if you're willing to share, I'm very curious about how you approach what
    appears to me as the gender essentialism of Wicca. Without disparaging the transformative power of reclaiming Femininity and/or Masculinity from their current dysfunction, I've never felt comfortable applying a heteronormative sexuality to the more-than-human world around me.

    Thanks for your blog!

    1. I typed up a very long response but the reply box is woefully small and useless so please forgive me if this is disjointed as heck.

      I'm not cis, I'm not het, and I'm not one inclined to physical reproduction so the image that I commonly see out there in the world of "the lord and lady" is not one I even vaguely resonate with. Hell the terms and ideas of “masculinity” and “femininity” are ideas that I have an uncomfortable dance with myself, being that my home base is pretty nebulous.

      I see the Powers as less individuals and more as accumulations of overlaid impressions. Literally a million-circle venn diagram of the traits of "Horn Wearer", and I try to touch the spot in the middle where they all (or most) overlap. Sometimes my aim is good, sometimes my aim is bad.

      And I've never gotten a sexual vibe from their interaction... or honestly really ever seen them directly interact. More that they are wardens of specific points/gates/hot spots/mysteries/etc. And one could go down either road without really ever encountering the other - but that the fullsome set of paths and mysteries would be lessened as a whole in the absence of either.

      In summary: “Huh… I’ll have to think about that because I don’t really ever think about that because I just assume those things don’t apply, but you know maybe they don’t apply BECAUSE I don’t think about them. Huh….”

    2. Do you feel it's even possible to approach Wicca from a non-sexual-binary standpoint? I'm pretty new to the world of non-Abrahamic spirituality in the first place, but it seems everything even one step removed from Wicca is heavily reliant on a Masculine/Feminine energetic divide often expressed through (hetero)sexuality or (hetero)sexual metaphor. As someone for whom gender performance appears to be inherently about power (and the inequality thereof), this has been a Hard No in my ability to connect to many experiences of people from/near Wicca. Again, only if you're willing to share some further personal information, I'm curious what you feel might be calling out to you from such an apparently gendered space. Thanks again for your time and sharing, it's meant a lot to me in my infantile graspings so far :)

    3. Do I think it's possible with Initiatory Wicca? I don't know. Wouldn't dare try to speak on it. People who have a little more ground to stand on there have said that what they're aiming for is polarity and tension (in a magical and energetic sense) and that however you get there is what's important. That probably most covens stick to the hard line of sex/gender, because That's The Way It Is Done, but that the important bit is how your energy behaves.

      I know from my energy work days that there are some people who have an absolutely uncanny ability for pulling other power inward and changing it. And others who are all about generating tonnes of energy and pushing it outward. I mean, there's a lot more variety than that among energy-workers, but... maybe I could see it being something akin to that? I could see a very powerful spiritual charge being built up by say, alternating "receptive" and "projective" persons in well matched pairs, doing their thing at full tilt.

      But I can't possibly attach that to gender or sex, y'know?

      There is SOMETHING there in Wicca that still calls. I can't tell you what it is because I haven't peeked behind the curtain. Maybe I was Wiccan before, in another life. Maybe it's another facet of what I already do and engage with (There are many, many, many paths through the same woods). I guess, if I ever met the right Wiccan I might learn - until then I just puzzle over it now and then.