This gets heavily redacted for obvious reasons. This was, as previously mentioned, an extremely personal working.
What I find at the centre is Me. Me chained. Me bloodied. Me trapped. Me on my knees. Me with the white rabbit before me, wounded and still. Here is everything I have hidden and trapped away. The wounded soul, stubborn and defiant on her knees.
I can not remove the chains.
We talk of many things over the days I get stuck here (long story, but this was meant to be a two day ritual and ended up going a week). We talk, primarily, of integration and becoming whole, of doing the damned work and healing, and of living.
We discuss what the Rabbit thing is about, because that’s a new one for me.
When I leave I have some clarity on where to next and how to start breaking those chains.
I got my ass to an amazing weekend workshop by the lovely Fio Santika last week. Advertised as below:
The Viel, Vessel & Web: Two Days of Possession, Oracular Trance & Spellcraft
This two-day intensive explores the Witch as the Seer, the Vessel and the Caster of Spells. Together we will delve deeply beyond the Veil to acquire the Gift of Sacred Sight and ignite the Seer within. We will cleanse, clear and align Self with All-Self and become the Holy Vessel to the Hidden, Mysterious and Mighty Potencies – to draw down/in the Gods and Spirits and to allow for direct interface and intimacy with the human community. We will also reclaim the sorcery inherent in our Craft and learn tried and true techniques for successful and ecstatic spellcraft – to wilfully and willingly weave with the strands of the Web and work with the Will of God Herself to attain to Desire, fulfil Necessity and affect Change.
In order to attend this intensive you must have a foundational magical practice that is alive to you and a conscious and tended relationship with your Spirits.
Look, I’ve not got a lot to share other than this is brilliant and if you get a chance to attend one of these weekends you should. Fio teaches all over the globe.
We don’t do a lot of possessory work in modern witchcraft. It’s certainly highly frowned on by many, especially in the Pagan community. Packed into the weekend were techniques I’d never otherwise have had the chance to try, possessory experiences I’d never had the chance to experience and some serious eye opening along my own path…
I can’t thank Fio enough for giving me the opportunity to attend. I will be revisiting these techniques for many years to come, no doubt.
He waits for me at the Seventh Gate, guised in his ram skull form. I don’t see this form often and I know to take it deadly serious. He is a God, not a spirit, and what he takes he can choose to keep if it serves me no purpose.
This one hurts, it turns out. I had figured it would be asked of me, but I hadn’t expected how much it would hurt when the time came. With my wedding band he takes from me my relationships – my friends, my family, my kids… My Partner.
There is no idle chatter, that will be left for the return. It is done, and I am devastated by the impact.
He sends me on…
There’s a break in the working here. I return to it a day later after having written everything down and started processing what had been and how I felt.
I return to where I left
off. Standing on the far side of the 7th gate. I continue down the path, black rabbit in arm, until I reach a river. The ferryman advises I bathe before crossing. I do, and I pay him the usual fare for taking me across.
I walk on, the landscape is different here. Rocky and blasted. It is here that I come face to face with the Lady of the Ways, Hekate. We speak, briefly, of altars and growth. She reassures me about what I have been doing so far for her and sends me on with the simple warning ‘It will be hard’.
And I find myself at the end, or is it the centre?
The Black Knight is a denizen of the city, I know this, but it’s the first time we’ve actually met. Although I’ve dodged past his feet in fetch form at least once. He is the knight of my childhood stories, strong and kindly. He refers to me as his child as if I were but a small lass and he my grandfather.
Unlike those that have come before him he asks what it is I have left to give. I have to stop and think about that a while.
In the end I place the black rabbit at my feet and I undress to hand him the shift I am wearing. It is, for this purpose, my armour. I use clothes to control how I am viewed, I use them as a weapon, or as a shield to make me vanish into the crowd. I use them to protect me.
He does not avert his eyes, but he smiles. Crows feet appear at the edges of his eyes. A good choice, he tells me, as we do not know if armour continues to serve its purpose if we never remove it to see.
A stranger waits at the Fourth Gate. I can’t pin down his features, only that it is definitely a male. He informs me that I shall be getting to know him, but it’s not a concern for right now. We banter a little, but for some reason I can remember very little of it when I come back. He takes my labels in the form of a wide belt that reminds me of a wrestlers belt. He takes the ‘fat’, ‘strong’, ‘weak’, ‘broken’ words from me.
I don’t think I need to explain the significance of that.
I see the gate clearly this time, whereas before I’d just passed through them. It’s the oval walkway you can see in the back of this photo from William Rickett’s Sanctuary. A place I love very dearly.
I feel lighter, cleansed, after stepping through.
The Fifth gate guardian is just that, a Gate Guardian. Unknown to me, immense, elaborately masked and robed in black. He takes from my a thin belt that is, in a sense, my womanhood . My sex, sensuality and pleasure. Something I have such a complex relationship with when all the elements of my gender and sexuality combine with mental health, personal hangups and physicality of sex itself. To let it go, at this point, is a relief.
I pass through that gate with barely a word spoken, and again feel cleansed*
*The lack of this sensation in the first three gates, I think, is more to do with how odd it felt to be without those elements of myself. Where with these I am almost relieved to hand them over for the time that I can.
The Artist waits at the third gate. Small, slight and kind-eyed. He teases gently, wanting to know if it’s now Ms or Mrs Bones, or do I skip the honourifics entirely being that I have only one name. We share a cigarette* as we talk about my mental health and the role it plays in my life right now.
We talk for quite a while.
When he asks for my jacket, and takes with it my mental health struggles, the fears I have for my future living with it, the motivations and identity that arises around. He doesn’t have to ask twice, if there’s a burden I am happy to live without then this is it…
And yet I feel oddly out of sorts and naked as I move on, through the gate and back onto the path.
*Weird fact: I smoke a lot when I’m dealing with spirits in spirit journeys, but I don’t actually smoke in meatspace. I’m asthmatic.
The path is exactly the same on this side of the first gate as it was on the other; Winding and overgrown with brambles and other unfamiliar plants. We come to the second gate rather quickly, I’m not sure if that’s a trick of my trance state or it is just a short walk, but regardless, it was quick.
If the guardian of the first gate was entertainingly familiar, then the guardian of this one is achingly so. The smile gentler than usual, the grey eyes soft, and the leather jacket as worn and battered as it ever was. He makes no pretence of authority and formality as he wraps me up in a hug.
“It’s about time, Bones. You need this, but you’re not going to like what I am to ask of you.”
And he talks, of witchcraft and spirits, of dependencies and paths lost, and of over complication for sometime… and he’s right. It’s hard. It’s hard to hear and harder to swallow when he hold out his hands, palms to the sky, and asks that I give him my witchcraft, my connections to the spirits, the Ancestors, and my ability to influence.
It is impossibly hard to submit, to comply with this request, but I consent. If I am to trust anyone with this part of my being then it is he. He gently removes a silver torque I didn’t realise I was wearing from my throat and takes with it anything that is not directly part of this working, this descent and return is no longer mine. I recognise it much later as the torc I wore on my wedding day.
The path is over grown and there’s not much of anything growing along it as we walk (yes, me and the bun are still going strong) at this point. This is the longest part of the walk, other than the stairs down here, and it’s so still and silent as to be unnerving.
When I finally round the corner that reveals the first gate I am to pass through I almost laugh at the familiarity of the Guardian. I knew going into this that it would be a very personal journey and not necessarily a deity driven one so I’m not overly surprised, but somewhat pleased to start with such a familiar face.
The Ancestor appears as he did the first time I met him. Blue tattoos from head to toe, warm hazel eyes and ancient despite his still copper hair. I note that I was mistaken in our first meeting, his hair isn’t in dreadlocks but rather many small braids with charms and bones woven amongst them.
I approach respectfully and He directs me to sit on the stone ground across from him, as I did the first time we met. He brushes his hands over the stone and dragged them back in the same motion.
The stone had become red earth.
There are no words. He traces images in the dirt again and the conversation happens in silence. He has never spoken a word out loud and I doubt He ever will. He speaks of passion, desire, will…
He asks my heart, reaches into my chest and takes it.
Well, not literally, oddly enough. It would be fitting for an underworld journey to start with a rabbit hole, but in my case it starts with a Fox, the Tree and… well a fucking Rabbit.
I’m going to break this up into multiple posts for my own sanity. Also so I take the time to explore it all a bit more.
So, some background, very briefly. I read the wonderful Journey to the Dark Goddess by Jane Meredith quite a while ago. A couple of year ago in fact, and while i thought about following it through it just felt slightly off to me, so I left it alone. Until along came the beautiful Dumb Supper held this Samhain where my spirits kicked me very firmly up the ass, and gave me some instructions on what to do…
They also demanded I make bread, repot the tomatoes next season and buy several new plants in their honour. Anyhow…
I unfurl as the Fox, unfolding, stretching, yawning, before I/we are running through the Forest towards it’s heart. It’s a journey that goes buy in a flash, one made a thousand times before, and intimately familiar. The shadows grow longer and darker as we reach the centre, and we burst into the clearing in our usual inelegant way. It’s home, really.
He’s not there. He wasn’t there at the Supper either. I drape Fox over my shoulders and run my hands gently over the knotted roots of the huge tree at the centre of it all as we walk towards it. Many are taller than I am, and I long ago stopped craning my neck in an attempt to see the top most branches. It is, simply put, vast.
I climb with the Fox remaining calmly in place until we reach the hollow where the brambles intrude then interlace to make His throne. Then she’s slithering from my shoulders and jumping to the almost vacant throne to sniff at the small, lop eared, black rabbit that occupies it. I watch them from a perch on the edge of the hollow until she curls up to sleep and the rabbit leaps into my lap.
I carry the small, warm, bundle of fur with me as I descend the stairs leading down into the darkness in the trees trunk. And I admit a certain level of shock when I slipped off the ledge onto something solid instead of just falling like usual.
Special occasions I guess…
He waits for me at the bottom and, rabbit in arms, the first trial begins. “Will you surrender…” he asks, over and over again. Sometimes the request is physical, sometimes it’s of my mental or physical self, sometimes it’s relationships, or parts of my self…
Will you surrender to me everything, everything you are, everything you believe, everything you love, everything you care about….
There is only one acceptable answer. As I kneel at his feet I give it over and over.