Down the Rabbit Hole: Entry to the Underworld

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.

descent_by_tsukiko_kiyomidzu-d8yfwqj
Descent by tsukiko-kiyomidzu

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.

“I will surrender.”

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Ashes and Dust

Pulling apart the pieces of my craft and exploring new areas. It’s a never ending search for what’s missing, what isn’t sitting in the right spot or in the right way, what’s absent and what needs to be discarded.

There’s much to chew through.

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Rose by Claparo-Sans (click through for artist)

There’s a crucifix buried in the garden. Roses grow from it.

My earliest paths in paganism are grown over from lack of use, and I have no urge to explore them further. Pieces were already thrown into the bonfire willingly, but almost everything is gone now. I hold onto the hands of my lover for he alone still walks with me.

Chaos magic served it’s time and there a practices, tiny bits and bobs, that I continue with. The mind set it allowed me is more important than the ritual or paraphernalia that went along with it. It goes, almost in it’s entirety, into the fires and the path grows over. It can not be un-walked. The mindset – the do what works attitude – remains, and the skills I developed in this time will never be idle.

Both this city and The CITY are home, and nothing can seperate my blood from them, but they are no longer under my feet each day. Their paths grows over, but welcome my step with perfumed roses and jasmine when I walk their ground. Rarely as witch, always as beloved and lover.

The Ancestors, well one does not discard ones blood, but it is time to find a better way to work this path. It is grown over and full of tripping hazards. I need to tend this path, burn away the debris and weeds. Tend it so it meanders less and less. There is work to be done on this path, always.

And the paths I’ve walked recently…

Witchcraft, eclectic, somewhat traditional but not quite… I walk the same ground over and over, collect and discard, collect and then burn. It grows over as fast as I tend it. No roses grow here. No belladonna. No lily. No ivy. Just weeds. There’s nothing to be burnt or tended anymore. There were skills learnt whilst trying to navigate this jagged path that will serve me, and interests piqued that will continue for many years no doubt. This path is closed to me.

This land continues to breath beneath my feet. That path needs neither tending nor discarding. It is old and implacable. It cares not if I walk upon it, but welcomes me, and any other, who does. Provided we walk with care and tend it as needed.

The path of stardust and compass is not mine. I walked it for a while, and loved it dearly. I can wish nothing but the best for the Coterie. May they breath, may they live, my the excel and may they explore ever onwards. Here is not my home, but I hope here I will always find friendship.

The Fox is waiting ahead in the garden, together we will continue to explore.

Oudeira

spirit_of_the_fox_by_misspoe-d84eaga

 

Oudeira is the Stardust Compass’ world tree.

I have been slowly becoming acquainted with it. I’m honestly 80% head blind and this stuff takes a while, which is fine for me. Tonight, finally pronouncing Oudeira correctly, I made some very good headway.

Some context in regards to my magic: I do most my magic stationary. When I was younger it was because I was working in confined spaces. Now it’s because pain and fatigue is a thing, and not wasting energy moving around in a sore body means I can do life stuff. This means that I tend not to invoke into my space but rather travel into ‘other’ or ‘trance’ space to work. Whenever I speak of walking, running etc I am doing it in ‘other’ space, because in this space my ass is firmly on the couch. 

So, Oudiera.

I move, initially, into my usual liminal space. This is a very literal white space. Stark white and bright as far as the eye can see, no landmarks, doors, stairs etc. I speak my intent to Fox, who has been acting as a wonderful guide in and out of this space since I first started working with it. We dance around a little until there’s a shift in the energy, and when I look up there are thousands of cables of light above me, and again below me. This is Oudeira.

There is a particular space on the floor that calls to me. One of the cables of light ends here today. It’s not small. It’s around the size of my lounge room in diameter with two concentric circles towards the outer edge of the cable. Fox leads me along the path between these – it becomes very hard going very quickly – this is a way opening. I am, at this point focussed mostly on my own two feet and Fox so it comes as a surprise when, after I have come to the point I can no longer move along the path, I look up to find myself within a circle of doors.

I open one that stands out from the others and enter an endless half of… you guessed it, more doors. Fox paws at one quite a bit further along.

**What happens from here falls into the need to know and doesn’t need to be online right not category, so we’ll skip to coming back.

Returning through the doors I’ve entered I come back to the original node and doors. I don’t need Fox to show me the steps. To close this node for my uses is easy, walk the path in the opposite direction, this time with my head up so I watch the doors recede into the floor and become part of the wall of the node beneath my feet.

Erm… title goes here

I can not for the life of me think of a title for this post. I blame the wonder of a hot bath full of beautiful scents.

Firstly, if you’re a fellow Australian please do follow the link and check out the wares of the lovely Belladonna and Bones. She specialises in magical herbal tinctures, oils, balms and flying ointments.

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So, I did a fantastic guided meditation with the very delightful Belladonna and Bones after a wonderful chat about her garden and some of what grows in it today. There were a few moments of note, and for obvious reasons I am not going into much detail here, but it’s been ages since I posted so…

  1. Clary Sage is a delightful entity.
  2. She was there and we got a brief chat in. This was nice as Himself of the Dark Heart has dominated in the past few years.
  3. V is an ass, but it was nice of him to show when I first arrived.
  4. Fox was pinned to my side the entire time. I actually can’t remember the last time I did any magic without Fox being there, and for some reason this only hit me today.
  5. I came through stark fucking naked. This is actually the bit that got me. It has never, ever, happened before. At least not so that I’ve noticed, but that self was naked. I am pondering the why’s of that and I think I have an answer which is for another day.

I picked up some of the Clary Sage ointment to use and plan to continue getting to know the spirit as I grow the seeds we were all so kindly gifted with today.

Right now, however, it is time for sleep.

Good night.

A Naming

The Fox leads me true, to the heart of the great dark forest where He waits. We run through a forest that gradually becomes darker, closer, more claustrophobic until we reach the heart. It’s dark here, the light only trickles in. It’s a place of death and dying. You walk over old bones. You can smell the wet decay of fur anId flesh.

You can smell loam so rich that it feeds an entire forest. What returns here, brings life out there.

He’s waiting.

Cross legged on the ground, hidden in the shadows of the tree’s massive roots, he’s waiting for me. He always knows I’m coming, but he’d normally be on the throne in the tree. Forcing me to climb for his attention… or just shout. I’ve done that before.

He told me once, long ago, that his name was of no concern until such time as I figured it out for myself. I take a breath and hesitate. This has been a long time and a lot of research in the making. He waits until I’m ready. Patiently, he knows. Finally I find it in me to speak.

The God of the Wild Places.
The King on the Bramble Throne.
Lord of the Black Heart.

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He smiles and speaks, and I am given a new name.

 

(Despite best efforts I could find no artist to attribute this image too, if you know of them let me know please.)

Honey, Milk and Bloodied Hearts

I dream of an altar of stone, angled so liquids poured onto its surface trickle in to the centre then down to the ground below, nestled between olive trees and night blooming jasmine. I dream of lanterns and spirits, of offerings of honey, wine, oil and fresh bloodied hearts. Of the curls of incense reaching to the night sky. I dream of furs and blankets and union. 

I dream of foxes eating hearts. 

I’m undergoing a huge period of transition at the moment. In truth it probably started four years ago. The year prior I had spent in crisis – suicidal, isolated and distressed. The first of the last four years was the death of three relationships and the start of something causal an entertaining… 

Or so I thought. We’re now due to be married so, casual, yes, that was a thing.

The olive cutting is showing signs of getting new leaves. It lives. 

Over the past four years my life has made a series of transitions. The crisis was followed by a period of restlessness, another crisis then a period of rapid transition. My path has shifted with it. I noted about two, maybe three, years back that my path appeared to be shifting from the Chaos Magic I had practiced for over a decade to something a little bit more… Traditional was the word I used at the time.

The altar is in a cave lit by torches. Water is poured the tall thin man with one arm, and incense lit by the huge viking like-man. A small black goat is lifted and held by the viking looking one while his companion slits it’s throat. Blood washes over the stone altar and trickles to the floor. 

The truth of the matter is that traditional isn’t really a good word for it and I think the Chaos never really went away. It all just shifted into a new form. There are now elements that resemble traditional witchcraft in what I do. The Fetch, Ancestors, more traditional land spirits (I live just off of a nature reserve in the suburbs now), and my altars are littered with feathers, bones, and candles. 

And a small ache that’s been in my chest for so very long became a distracting one. I have been restless, searching, reaching. I looked for community, and found an amazing one, but it didn’t stem the dull ache and restless. I reworked and tweaked my path so many times that I started to resemble a flakey new-ager chasing the latest soul saver to no avail. I worked harder, pushed more at the edges, and nothing changed.

He watches me quietly from the end of the bed. Taller than I, rangy and dark haired. No horns today. Those come and go as he pleases. He curls around me when I come to bed and in the moments between waking and sleep I feel fur and rough hewn blankets instead of silky sheets. 

I still wanted. I still needed. Something was missing and I couldn’t name it.

So I settled. I worked with what came to hand and what fascinated me the same as I always had with Chaos Magic. Can’t say it went wrong even if I look back occasionally and wonder what I was thinking. I can see how I got from there to now. There are the skulls. There are the roses. There are the feathers. There is Babalon as sexuality and sex really took a front seat. There are the bones. The Fox showed up and I rolled with it. The Wild One became a magical partner as the sex took a turn for a whole lot more than just sex. 

They catch my eye, a small flash of white in the dirt. A minute later I’m digging bones out of the dirt. Days later I’m presented with a small blue butterfly by my Wolf, always so considerate.
Then there’s tiny vertebrae found caught in the fence. The Fox demands their skin.
There’s a bird wing drying in the shed, and a whole skeleton to be stripped and cleaned. I gather bright blue feathers from the ritual site and mourn the Bowerbird I couldn’t save nor give proper burial.
Things just come together of their own accord, they always do that. 

And then THEY came knocking. 

You want to know what I have actively avoided since the end of my first fledgling year of magic? Deity. But there’s something bigger at the end of this. Something so much bigger than any spirit I have ever seen.

That odd little dream I kept having with the altar… The slanted surface liquid was poured onto, that let it run to the earth. The offerings of honey, milk, oil, alcohol and blood. The hearts. The incense and olive trees. The Foxes. 

Outside, low to the ground… 

The foxes that ate the hearts…

The term Chthonic takes on a meaning outside of the hypothetical.


Pagan Blog Project: A is for Altar

(I will be posting one post once a fortnight for each letter due to time constraints)

Ok, a very beginner, and perhaps a bit twee, subject to kick this off with, but as a forum mod over on the dreaded Facebook and someone who has not quite given up on Tumblr’s Pagan tag it seems as good a place to start as anywhere.

Firstly let’s just clarify the difference between an altar and a shrine as they are commonly used in Paganism/Witchcraft.

  • An Altar is a working area that often changes seasonally or with whatever projects you have going.
  • Shrine is a set up that remains in place where you make offerings to spirits, Ancestors and/or Deities that you work with and nothing that does not pertain to them ends up in that space (unless you have annoying housemates of some kind or cats).

Pagans and Witches I know have (for the most part) 3 ways of doing things – They maintain an altar or shrine/s only, they maintain an altar and separate shrine/s, or they smoosh the two together they have space issues or privacy issues or just because they can. I fall into the latter category which tends to mean I am an absolute shocker for using altar as a cover all term for both altars and shrines.

So the thing 99% of people think when they get into Paganism or Witchcraft is that they need an altar of some form and it needs to have very particular things on it. This tends to lead to a lot of questions and frequently money wasted by people who don’t necessarily have the money and are probably not going to use the things that they buy in the initial layout.

First things first – you do NOT need a dedicated and permanent altar. Or a shrine for that matter. You don’t. Any surface you work on, from your bedroom floor to the kitchen bench, to a piece of cloth on a patch of grass outside, or a rock, can be temporarily dedicated as an altar. If you’re working magic on it then it’s an altar. If you make offerings on it it’s a shrine, in that vein of thinking.

Second really important thing – if you are not part of a specific tradition that has altar and tool requirements then there is actually no must have items for an altar.

It’s easy to think that you must have an altar and it must be huge and awesome or contain certain things because horrible asshats like me tend to post the odd image of ours and they are frequently kind of huge and awesome or contain ‘traditional tools’. That… and every 101 book I’ve ever read demands you have an altar with certain tools or representations on it.

No. Nope. Not at all. In fact for the first decade I practiced I only set up an altar when I needed it for something and otherwise didn’t bother.

Having an altar, as mentioned above, is a personal choice. Should you be like me and for some reason maintain one then what goes on it is HIGHLY subjective. Most 101 books and well meaning experienced members of the communities will tell you that a basic altar should have representations of the elements, deity/Lord and Lady, and a basic offering of some kind. This is a reasonable way to start. I personally do not ever recommend any form of Deity representation, but I don’t work with Deity much, and not conventionally, so it’s not something I’m comfortable advising on.

My original altar contained a photo of my Nanna, a white candle and a glass of water for my Ancestors and that was it. It’s grown organically and vastly as needed which means I’ve never wasted money on unnecessary items. This is important because so very few of us have excess cash to throw around these days.

Let’s take a walk through my current altar* as you can see it below…

So much stuff crammed into one surface... hard to believe that 3 years ago I refused to maintain an altar at all isn't it?
So much stuff crammed into one surface… hard to believe that I refused to maintain an altar at all for 10 years isn’t it?
  • The Fan – a purchase at a festival I attended with the Wolf. It cost me $2 and I use it to fan smoke when I’m using it for cleansing. It’s less likely to attract unwanted attention if I’m working outdoors or travelling than one of those feather/wing fans some people use.
  • The Fur – If you read back a bit in this blog I’m working with a Fox entity. She asked for that. As a rule I am indulgent of the spirits I work with provided requests are within reason. As a rule I only work with a couple of them so I can be.
  • The Red Bowls – Offering bowls. I believe these were from Thailand, or possibly Bali. Regardless they were a gift from my Mum who thought they were beautiful. I agree, obviously. Gifted items are often perfect altar items for me. It’s a luck of the draw thing.
  • Feathers – Collected locally or at places I’ve been. Useful for charms and making things but not elemental representations in my practice. Be aware of any legalities around collecting samples like these in your local laws.
  • Rosemary – I use rosemary instead of sage. It’s cleansing and protective and smells better. The rosemary on my altar is harvested as part of one of the Feasts of the Dead and changed at the same.
  • Ancestral Setting and Candle – I have an active Ancestral practice and they get regular offerings of water and/or alcohol and food. I HIGHLY recommend a beginner develop relations with their Dead.
  • Skulls, and George! (The grey skull) – I work with the dead and entities that have ties to death and/or sex. These are often filled with something or being used as ‘housing’ for entities I’m working with.
  • Candles – there are candles on there for two spirits I work closely with, and my Ancestors. On occasion there will be added candles for working, people who are ill, someone who has passed etc. I find candles are useful focal points.
  • Roses – These are fake, but they’re again an entity related item. On feast days I will often place fresh flowers on the altar.
  • Make-up and Perfume – Ladies, gentleman, and everyone between or outside those arbitrary gender pronouns, masks are magic and makeup is just a type of mask. Useful, very very useful, to have charged makeup.
  • The Shells – probably the thing people most often mistake as a representation of elements the shells are there for two reasons. The actual reason is that they whisper and the spirits can and will use them to talk if you hold them to your ear long enough.
  • Incense (not visible) – incense is the most useful thing ever. Use it for offerings or to cleanse, to divine in the smoke trail or as a mind-altering substance for ritual purposes… totally the most useful thing if you can have it where you are.

So, yeah, it’s pretty big. It’s more complex when you add items I’ve removed for the photograph and the other two levels my altar has to it. Thing is, as I said, this grew organically. There was the initial few items that then became a few more. Then I started working with that spirit and it wanted a few things. Then I needed a few things to represent that thing I was doing…

And so on and so forth.

What’s resulted is a complex (and kind of cluttered) altar to another persons eyes but one that only contains exactly what it needs to mine.

So feel free to go nuts with decorations and traditional tools and such things if it pleases you, but if you’re unsure then get the absolute bare basics (a candle as a meditation focus for example), if anything at all, and let things come to you of their own accord as you grow into your practice.
*NB: A personal habit that I recommend getting into is never ever posting your full altar or anything you are working on at the time. Take a few things off, wait till a project has reached fruition before talking about it and so on. I’ll explain the reasoning in a later post. 

I wants it…

We stumbled upon this little shop on our trip to pick up his car. We were looking for lunch places and the shop was called A Skulk of Foxes… and we didn’t go in.

Possibly good for my bank balance, that decision.

I stumbled across their website tonight while looking for skulls of all things, and they have this. How much do I want this?

SO FUCKING MUCH!

And a friend offered to buy it for me, but it just feels wrong. Not that someone else would buy it for me, or exchange for it as the case would be, but that the someone else is someone who doesn’t understand why I want it.

*Grumbles* My brain bites.

I dream…

Fairytale Hero – Hrefngast

I dream.

I dream I kneel at his feet, head bowed, presenting the drum and wolf bone beater. My hands are stained red as the drum skin from hours with the dye.

I dream I gouge my face. Tear out one eye. She that is me yet not nods her approval. I see clearer one eyed and bloodied.

I dream the little red fox and the great black wolf dance round the fire. There is no joy yet they dance on.

I dream of a man with hair impossibly dark and skin impossibly pale. He wear clothes thoroughly modern yet carries a blade so obviously ancient.

I dream of the Ancestors land. Of the old warrior with the white hair and swirling blue tattoos. He still sits beneath the dead white tree on deep red dust.

I blink… In his place now stands a young man with hair as copper as mine though he wears the elders tattoos. He leans on his spear, standing beneath the white tree now green with foliage.

I blink… He is gone. The great black wolf stands wrapped in his furs, eyes hollow and hard. The tree is shattered and charred as if hit by lightning.

I dream of the City shrouded in twilight and of it’s inhabitants. They are waiting.

I dream of this place. Of the future. Of orchards and laughter.

I dream of the little red fox dancing with the great black wolf. A dance bloody and violent.

I dream.

These are snippets. I barely have a night without vivid dreams at the moment.