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.
After midnight, by quite a bit, candles are lit and offerings are set out. He passed on commenting on the fact that I give them the expensive single malt I love so much. He doesn’t quite get that bit. He helped me carry the honey and milk, and water, to the bedroom for the second altar.
My New Year witching is simple.
Offerings for the Dead (alcohol, water, honeyed milk)
Food for the spirits (Water and honeyed milk)
Candles for both.
There would be hearts, but I think The Wolf would object in our bedroom.
Candles and well wishes for friends, family and loved ones.
The candles on the Hearth altar are left to burn out over night
The night was spent with the same, my family of the heart and our friends. It was, as always, a warm and laughter filled night. Quiet, but wonderful. We eschew larger, more energetic gatherings for this little one, and have for several years now. Although I found myself wishing for the comfort of bodies pressed together in motion by the end of the evening. I think a festival would be nice for the next New Year.
The new year brings a need, I think, to teach The Wolf about what I do and why. He tends to avoid involvement. Perhaps to explain why being referred to as his goddess tends to make me twitchy too. There’s some heavy work to be done.
My hopes for the year are that it’s a year of happiness, of building strong foundations, of love, of joy, of creativity and the satisfaction of work done. My hopes are that you too have a year full of these things.
Someone telling you your practice is invalid because it doesn’t fit some arbitrary criteria?
Answer: Fuck off.
Spirits in your house causing mischief?
Answer: Fuck off.
People in your community being made of creepy and inappropriate?
Answer: Fuck off.
Magic being directed at you from out there and you don’t want to play ball?
Answer: Fuck off.
Fuck off can be flip, and teasing and light and laughing, but it can also be venom and rage and anger. It can be turned into a two word spell able to be thrown out on an instant’s notice. Throw your voice behind, growl it, snarl it, let anger reach it and fill it and direct it’s venom straight at the recipient. Flip it off, make it snide, dismissive, snarky and let it fob the recipient off as unworthy of your time and attention.
Magic doesn’t have to be complicated or tool laden, it doesn’t have to have spirit’s and deities intercepting on your behalf. You’ve got plenty enough power alone. You can cast with a word or a gesture on a heartbeats notice, or you should be able to. You won’t always have the luxury of time or privacy. A snarled word, a hand gesture or an ice cube pushed about with the tip of a finger should be enough at a press.
And for the love of all that is merciful fuck being nice about it. To HELL with this harm none love and light shit. If you’re threatened fight, and if your loved ones a threatened fight harder again. Don’t live in a bubble of light and fail to protect yourself and your people. Don’t be a damned victim because someone said asserting yourself and fighting for yourself and others were only things bad people do.
It’s the smallest and simplest of altars. A candle, honey and mead for the spirits on the longest night. No great feast, no over hauled three level altar, no lantern or fruit in the garden. A candle, honey and mead.
Sometimes we get blindsided. I was not meant to be home tonight, and I could have made good on responsibilities at the mid-winter gathering, but my head continues to throb and my body ache so I am here instead. This is not my home with the altar so I make do. I made promises, and I put in the effort to keep them…
Even if it means a simple altar in the middle of my Wolf’s kitchen table while he is out.
I think it is easy to forget that a little effort can go a long way, and that a promise kept holds power of it’s own even if all you have is the supplies in the kitchen cupboard.
Now the question remains, can I convince him to see in the dawn with me after this longest of nights?
I’d say we die thousands of little deaths (and I’m not talking about orgasms thank you kindly) in the form of betrayals, trauma and lost battles. Those deaths, like all deaths, change us. They can break us open or close us up, soften us or sharpen our edges to brittle razors.
Some deaths you recover from quickly and others force you to descend and hold you down there until you actively work to raise yourself up. And some of them are just fucking complicated and follow you around like the smell of an old corpse’s burst guts. I died a complicated death. I paid, I descended and I rose changed, but the fucker that caused it stench follows me like the corpse gut smell.
I’m tired of it.
I’m soon to be, among other things, doing some release work. I’ve talked about this before in a post about unhooking yourself from others. In this case it’s significantly harder than before as we’re dealing with someone who I had sexual relations with, had a very close bond with and who betrayed me utterly. My anger and distress have tied me to this person tighter than I was to start with in many ways and left me chained to them. A slave of my own pain. It’s emotionally fraught work and it signifies a death in and of itself.
Work like this isn’t easy. You deliberately put yourself through hell in order to heal. It’s a deliberate, carefully considered, self inflicted trauma that I know will drag me back into the underworld.
How to deal with these kinds of works?
It would be easy to dismiss this as underworld work and arm yourself, or advise arming yourself, accordingly. However this is a little different. I’m not going seeking the underworld and my allies that could help me there will have no power to assist me in this. There’s no real way to know where I’ll end up or how long the paths will take to navigate. There is no ferryman to pay, or gates to discard or collect objects from, nor guardians and deities to bribe *ahem* I mean honour and pay.
In this case your best weapons aren’t on that side. They’re on this side of the veil. Make time for this, make time to scream and weep. Make sure you have someone and somewhere to hide in while you hurt. Make sure you can avoid the person you’re letting go of.
Make sure there’s no unfinished business. If you’re letting go of someone who has seriously harmed you and you have rage then curse the fucker and his blood lines for the next 30 generations or be more constructive and release your anger in rituals… whatever it takes, get it done before you try to untie yourself or you’re leaving yourself open to reattach to them.
And, mostly, make sure you’re ready. It’s been over 12 months since I cut ties with the person I’m unhitching, and it’s time to. I’m ready to be completely done. I no longer feel the need to try and fix things any more than I need to kill him – not that I wouldn’t maim him if I could, but I don’t want to seek him out to hurt him. He’s simply an old festering wound and releasing him is going to cauterize that so I can heal completely and move on. If you’re not ready you’ll be lengthening the process, because as much as you want it done it’s not in your heart and mind and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to let it go.
This isn’t small work, no matter what method you use to achieve it. This is work that tears and rends and destroys parts of you. It hurts. It’s emotionally fraught, if not physically. You, I, am deliberately seeking a death and it’s one of part of yourself that has been trapped.
This is going to be a little bit loaded with the personal. To start from the top this is regarding my practice and is the result of being gently pushed to get things down by the ones I work with.
[I’ve stopped to re-read this and have to laugh, I’ve set a few fictional stories in the city because it really is just that kind of place, and there’s no way to write about it without it sounding like it’s that kind of place… and yes I feel very awkward talking about this place, but I’ve been told to sooooo….]
The City is, I suppose you could say, an astral place. I’ve always thought of it as a place between. A bridge if you will between the human world and the realms purely devoted to spirits. Somewhere you can meet and make merry…
So an astral place would be a fitting description I guess.
The City itself is a vast place built into the side of a cliff that has a great but un-navigable crevice cracked through it. It’s streets twist and turn, often trailing into dead ends or opening out into large courtyards. The light is often dim, though in most areas there is a distinct night and day. The areas I am intimately familiar with include the UpCity, The Tower, The Twilight, The Bar Called Alice, The Red District and, uh, His place?
UpCity is where you’ll find most of the big name powers that have little to do with the rest of us on a personal level – The Lovers, Death, Birth, The Mother, The Father etc. They’re the big ideas, universal archetypes and they’re interesting but you’ll be better off finding someone smaller and better equipped for conversation if you want to get shit done.
The Tower is basically a massive clock tower, except it doesn’t measure the hour… or at least not just the tower. On this side I can feel the sudden change when the Spirit’s Hours begin, on that side it begins when the cogs in the clock turn over to a certain point. The tower basically measures the year in the way you have the traditional wheel and myths around it here. It casts a shadow that does not change. I’d say there’s no sun to make it change but the shadows everywhere else change constantly so… it’s one of The City’s creepier aspects to say the least.
The Twilight is the one place that the light never changes from a perpetual twilight. Funnily enough the Twilight is the area where the Clock Tower’s shadow falls. The math is pretty easy to do. The Twilight is a quieter area, relatively safe and mostly residential. Here you will find the ones I think of as somewhat kin to Saints. They’re not the big archetypical powers, but they have power over specific domains – Killers, Snipers, Midwives, Painters, Soldiers etc – and are often easier to deal with than the big powers. This area is also where you will find some of the more useful ‘guns for hire’ so to speak. Entities that will trade with you for somethings… just don’t come here looking for anything sex related.
For anything related to sex and pleasure you go to the Red District. The Red is one of my favorite places in The City. It’s loud and brash and dotted with alleys, whore houses and bars. Escorts, whores, addicts, pushers, entertainers and sinners of all kinds reside in the Red. It’s not a safe place, but you can find pretty much anything to please in this area and along with that you can find assistance with anything sex and pleasure related for the right price. Information comes at a premium here, and can be dodgy.
A Bar Called Alice is my absolute favorite place bar the place I reside so to speak. Alice is located on the far side of a large alcove which you reach via several twisting back alleys that smell of piss and dead cats. You have to duck the Rabbit and then get past the bartender to get into Alice… and then negotiate some pretty insane, very dark stairs, but the bar as cosy and warm, the bartender knows his shit and it’s the place you want for accurate information and directions to what can help you. Don’t forget to tip, and bring your divination tools.
His place is generally where I arrive, which makes it not useful to anyone but me as I have a long term relationship with Himself. It’s the world’s most run down place with rickety stairs, uncovered pipes, herbs and shit hanging everywhere and the worst lit kitchen in the history of forever, but it’s a place I can come and go from in relative peace and I’ve been known to retreat here when I’m distressed in day to day life as it’s quite peaceful. It’s located at the very edge/end of the city where it meets the great forest and it’s not a safe area to traverse unescorted.
The City itself isn’t and is a huge part of my practice. It’s where most my ‘people’ are located when I want to work. It’s from Alice that I pull my divinations. It has places you can learn and ‘people’ you can learn from. It’s easier, for me, to go to the city and work rather than pull energies through this world in some ways.
I shouldn’t have to say this for y’all to know, but this is a HEAVILY EDITED version of events.
He appears almost as soon as I close my eyes. I’m not surprised as he’d noticed my train of thought and been poking at me for the past few hours. He appears as he always has. Lean and sharp, the same scruffy platinum hair and too intense eyes… The same ease and quiet confidence I’m used to from our early encounters.
“I know what you’re here for.”
“Then what’s the price?”
“There are major powers involved, they may get to him first. I’m… small, in comparison.”
“Very well. You already know the price. You give him flesh.”
“I figured as much. Consider it done.”
“Would you rather he lived?”
“Only if he regrets ever being born the whole damned time.”
“Well, we’ll see what we can do about that.”
He gives me a time frame, laughs and is gone. The one he spoke of appears and we talk briefly of what he has planned and how we will execute it. When is an issue, but we have a time frame for that to be sorted in too.