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.
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?
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.
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.
This could be a long one but in truth it’s brutally short.
I did next to nothing in 2016, magically that is.
I maintained my altars. I blogged a bit. I did some tarot readings. I thought about doing magic a lot… and that’s it. I didn’t even remember to post most my blogging on the Australian blogging group I moderate.
I did read a lot in 2016. Gemma Gary, Peter Grey (again), and lots of blog posts and essays on magic. It was uninspiring for the most part. Not to say it wasn’t interesting, but it wasn’t inspiring. I’ve felt a bit like I’m doing nothing but going through the motions for a long time.
A few weeks ago I picked up the wonderful Chaos Protocols by Gordon White. I believe my exact comment was that ‘If Peter Grey was poetry for my soul then Gordon White was the good swift motivating kick up the ass’. I can not recommend this book enough. There was nothing there, skill wise, that was overly new – a few technical things I can incorporate on top of well honed skills though – but the book as a whole was inspiring and motivating. It’s what I’ve been needing to get my magical brain buzzing again.
So we’re leaving 2016, which was one hell of a year in both the good and the bad sense, and moving into 2017…
I can’t think of a much better time to rediscover my motivation and inspiration that right on the cusp of a new year really. Can you?
I have so much going on right now that it’s hard to stay on top of it all.
I often advise newcomers that their absolute first port of call should be the dead of their family lines. These Beloved Ancestors are the spirits that have the most interest in your well being and continuation because without you there is no more of their bloodline in the end. Which isn’t to say they can’t be complete twats, because they can – especially those who are recently dead. Which is to say that if you’re dad was an asshole in life, or your uncle a racist shit, then they probably still will be in death. Probably. Nothing is 100% set in stone.
Now, I don’t interact with any of my recently dead. I prefer working with the older family spirits to date. In part because none of my actual bloodline had passed until very recently and in part because of that bloodline I didn’t know the one who is gone. I do still honour my Grandfather’s second wife and my Grandmother’s second husband as family, but they’re not Ancestors, they’re Beloved Dead or ‘Ancestor’s of the Heart’ so my feelings of them is a bit different.
Anyhow, this is about getting started working with them. There are a lot of different ways to go about and different paths have different rules. This is just where I started, what I know and what I have experienced. It is not the absolute, one true, and only way. Quite the opposite, this is MY way and one of many. A lot of my practice is mashed together from UPG, reading up on Hellenic Chthonic practices, folklore and traditional witchcraft.
When I started off on this part of my path I did so from a point of necessity. There was a major family drama going down and I was at the point of hot-footing a family member. Before taking what I knew to be very drastic measures I touched base with some peers and asked if anyone had better suggestions to get the issue resolved quickly. One of them, a vodou practitioner, suggested I speak with my Ancestors. At this point I had no dead in my family line and I had no clue. This wonderful person gave me the starting point from a vodou perspective and it’s the one I recommend for everyone as it’s pretty neutral. Do note that in Vodou you do not keep the Ancestral altar in your bedroom unless you can cover it or have it somewhere you can close the door on it (Think of it this way – effectively your relatives can watch you fuck).
Start simple, clean white cloth, a white candle and a glass of fresh water that you change regularly. Sit down, light the candle, say hello and talk to them. You can tell them about your day, your problems, your victories and they seem to like knowing about any family things, good and bad, that are happening. That’s the basis of the whole shebang. Simple and sweet, nothing complex and easy to do even if you’re not ‘out’. You can also add white flowers and photos of your family.
You can literally stop reading here if you wanted to.
Moving forward to what I have now. I draw on a lot of traditions and I’m going to lay out some odds and ends of praxis that you can take or leave.
The skull is a spirit house for the Ancestors. For me it is where their candle rests and is elevated on my Ancestral Altar at the hearth of my home (in this case a bookshelf in the lounge room as we spend most our time there). George (naming is optional) looks a little like the plaster of paris one by etsy use ViciousNoodle. You can use a real skull if you want, but ceramic ones tend to be as good, and you can also get stunning theatre prop ones.
Offerings to the ancestors and various props and objects live on the altar which are ‘owned’ by my Ancestors or part of their worship.
Candles are important, as we all know. If you can not have an open flame for any reason then don’t, they’ll live. The main aim of the candles is to create light for your spirits to see your working and be warmed. In the case of the Dead they can also act as a guiding light to the spirits.
For my family we have two options for candles. I used to use beeswax candles. The downside is they’re expensive, the up is bees and honey have long held associations with the dead, and they smell amazing. Unfortunately my local supplier for beeswax pillars got in a bunch that literally burnt for 30 minutes and then dissolved into an absolute mess, so we’ve been using tea lights. The advantage of tea lights, as much as they are cheap, is that you can leave them to burn as they have limited burning time and are inexpensive. You can also get them in many colours and scents if you’re so inclined. One of my Dead loves vanilla scented ones.
Speaking of, these are a big deal, for me fresh water
is a must and my Dead insist on alcohol. Whenever asking for anything big from them I put out the good scotch, and wine and port are regular additions. Food isn’t good for us, the cat gets into it, but rice, bread, honey, and olive oil are all traditional offerings, as are foods that your dead liked in their lifetimes. Likewise tobacco is often a fantastic and traditional offering, as is incense. A LOT of spirits like smoke offerings. The reason I have been given is that it make their spirit bodies feel ‘full’ or tangible if you will.
In my praxis anything given to the dead is no longer fit for human consumption. Liquids are poured into the garden, food discarded away from the home (usually given to the ravens) and other offerings either burnt, buried or carefully discarded in the main bins after being wrapped separately. Burying objects for the dead is a great idea as the lands of the Dead are literally beneath the ground in most lore.
Feeding any spirit regularly is a good idea. Food is love as the phrase goes, and regular attention and feeding strengthens your bond with your spirits. For the Dead water, olive oil, honey etc is also soothing. Alleviating restlessness and potential anger and resentment directed towards the living.
So next big thing is working with them!
At the end of the day this is as easy as sitting down and talking and then listening. Working with your Ancestors can be a good way to start developing your ability to hear spirits and interpreting their messages. They can communicate with you directly, through divination, dreams and various waking symbols.
For odds and ends tell them what’s happening and what you need/want from them, give them a little extra love for their attention and then again if they do the work (and they won’t if they think it’s bad for you).
For house protections place items that are related to the home and family (hair or symbols of living family members) on the altar permanently. Feed them regularly and let them know you’re trusting the home and household members to them.
Categories of identity are pretty cool in a way. They allow us to find people like us or who think like us, to delineate between us and them (admittedly not always a good thing) and to organise to protect vulnerable groups (Transgender people, homosexual people etc). Those are good things. But there’s also a downside to it.
As teenagers, when we’re still figuring things out, it’s considered normal to change your mind about your identity. You are growing up, you’re changing rapidly, and so are your tastes, sexual attractions and internal identity. As adults those categories can become incredibly restraining. They can become boxes you can’t step out of for fear of ridicule, ostracisation or upsetting loved ones.
And that’s kind of where I’m at right now. Things have changed massively for me over the past few years and I’ve been very quietly reassessing many things. Among those things are questions around my sexual identity, my gender identity and, somewhat more relevant to this blog, my religious and magical identity.
As far as magic goes I dropped Pagan years ago. I’m not comfortable with it, nor with a lot of people who identify as Pagan. I remain part of the community anyway, because it’s where I find many like minded people and have many old friendships I won’t be giving up any time soon. I simply refer to myself as a witch, which is still fine and dandy in and of itself. It’s a pretty broad category covering a lot of people of all kinds of different paths.
Where I’ve been really hung up in recent months is religion.
My last post opened with “There’s a crucifix buried in the garden. Roses grow from it.” What it didn’t touch on is the urge to go find it or the confusion that it is causing. I grew up in a very loving Christian household, and when I chose to walk away from Christianity that household, my family, remained very loving and supported me in my explorations. My parents have never turned their back on me and have actively supported my choices. I was very lucky in that (even if it did mean I ended up with some truly woeful dragon statues over the years), but what I was never able to reconcile that household, and even many of my childhood churches, with was the larger institution of the Church and Christianity and the truly horrific things that have and continue to come out of it. Honestly that’s why I left – The horrific hypocrisy of the Church.
And yet I never really stopped believing in God. So now I’m grappling with where I sit, witch will never leave me but am I still Christian? I’m have the vague feeling the answer may be yes.
God is the divinity in all things. To me They are so far removed as to be unknowable. They are the divinity behind and in everything, and we are so tiny as to be flickers on the edge of Their perception. They do not answer prayers or inflict children with diseases. They certainly do not condone the actions of humans, anymore than They necessarily condemn them. They are too far removed to notice it all in my mind.
Which is where the spirits come in, they are the intermediaries. I believe this of all gods and entities including angels, demons, and even the one I refer to as the Wild God from time to time. He’s a big, very powerful, very old, spirit. The spirits and entities give us a knowable face, something we can comprehend and communicate with. Which ones we are drawn to tends to be dependant on where we’re at in ourselves and where we need to go.
And behind them all sits God, Divinity, The Creator. Whatever it is you wish to call Them.
I don’t really have anywhere to go with this. I just wanted to get it down.
As silly as it sounds I’ve been sitting on this for a long while. In part because of my natural loathing of a church that sees me and mine as deviant, corrupt and wrong and in part because there’s a low key fear that it will make those I love look at me like I’ve grown a second head. It’s out now.