Tag Archives: midnight

Devoured Alive

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The sabbats don’t really mean much to me, and even the solstices don’t always pull me out to attend. Watching my practice an observer would think there was no pattern at all, I might go weeks or months without doing anything notable, then suddenly spend days on end in a mad fit of frenzy. Part of that is admittedly just me. More so, however, is that I attend when the spirits demand I do so.

I say demand even though I am not a servant per se. I like to think that I have a rather social, sometimes academic relationship with the spirits I traffic with. But I have learned through the years that when they ask, it is best to answer. It’s a lot like when you were little and your mother “asked” if you would like to do the dishes, or take out the trash… you could say no, but…..

More accurately I should say that for all that we are friends, or close enough to it, for all the favors begged and borrowed, they are not like us. And we forget that at our peril. In one of my favorite fiction books, the author says that people are mistaken when they compare the Fae to us. That most people think they are alike to us as wolves and dogs. But that isn’t so. Wolves and dogs are much too much alike. The spirits, the Fae, the others, their standing to us is more akin to alcohol and water. They both look the same in equal glasses, they are both wet, but if you touch a match to them, one will burn and the other wont, because they are fundamentally different.

When the spirits call me it can be anything and yet it is always the same. It’s an itch under my skin, a fire, a drive or urge or anything, always though, there is a sudden knowledge than I need to do this, regardless if it is the hottest part of the day or the dead of night.

It wasn’t always like that for me though. I didn’t always hear them so clearly, or know them so well.

It wasn’t until my first born died that things changed. His death wasn’t a good one and if I am going to be honest it broke me. It took some vital part of me, the part that loved light and laughter and living day to day, and it snapped it like a kindling stick. Mauled it twisted it and tossed it out to die. I wasn’t the same after. I was sick, and if I wasn’t dying myself I was certainly withering. Then she found me. Knowing now what she is I think she came to me to finish things. I think she came to kill me. When there is blood in the water sharks will come, this is a fundamental thing. She is a predator and I was wounded prey.

I think I surprised us both when she first set her teeth into me, She bit down and I bit back. I’m not sure why, not even really sure how. But when she went to feed on me, what she took from me I took from her in turn. In some twisted mad way we ate each other. Choked down every bit, every piece and gobbet of bloody flesh and in the mess that was left we weren’t two but one… sounds crazy. Hells it probably really is a bit crazy. It certainly feels that way. But now when I walk the dark paths to my soul home She is there. And some months when the moon is right She calls me to the Wild Hunt and we fly or run or move in stranger ways and drink down the spirits of what we catch. I call her Titania, my fairy queen. My dark lady, and she indulges me with a fond smile and a look that clearly says ” idiot ” .. Since we became a part of each other, I’ve walked a bit closer to the fae realms.

She has made me a child of smoke and bones, ripped me apart and remade me as something slightly other.

Midnight

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Of Clay & Fire

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The ritual I am describing is something that in actuality took several days. It is condensed into what sounds like an hour or so here for the sake of ease of reading, and if truth be told, ease of writing.

The coals are ready. I dust them with a handful of lavendar and anise, with rose petals and orange peel, with cedar and acorns and lemon grass. Smoke billows up in eddies and mad spirals. It billows and writes out the words of the wind.

I pass my clay through the smoke, I touch it lightly, dabbing it with oil.

I set it down, across the fire, so that I can see it through the smoke and flame. Then I begin.

I fill my pipe with Damiana and breath in the smoke.

A deep calm settles on me and I straddle the veil between worlds.

I look through the fire and flame and see the potential of what sits across the fire there.

I weigh it against what I have in mind, against what I need, and I nod. It will do.

I breath in and gather my need, I hold it close and tight and then I breath it out into the air,

    “I need a force to keep the peace in my home,

I need a reminder to find joy in the every day.

I need something to balance my family and bring us closer.”

Again I taste from my pipe and look again at the clay through the fire.

I gaze past this world and see into the other.

There I see the shadow, a vague silhouette of what I have done. This will be the mold, the bones from which I build my spell.

I gather my clay up and hold it in my hands. I knead it and I speak.

“First He took the stuff of fire, and threaded it through. He spun it hard and strong and set it deep, and from it built a skeleton of light. Next he drew the stuff of living earth, this he set about the bones and molded into flesh. He set water to flowing and made it its blood and then he bestirred it all with air and gave it life.”

I take a moment and look at what I have done so far. What I have molded, both with my hands and with my words.

Satisfied that the vessel would suffice I set it aside and set about refining the spirit.

Oberon I name it, and that gives it identity, a personality for itself and in my mind.

I take my molded clay, the physical link from him to us and I hide it. I am tempted to bury it, to give it to the earth but I need him to be for us, not deeded to the land.

Instead I find it a place in our home. Where it will not be seen. Where it will not be moved or touched. Not yet. First I will let it watch and learn us. First it will need to understand us then I will bring it out and let it take what place and role it may.

Sea of Trees

Photo by Matt Clarkson on Flickr
Photo by Matt Clarkson on Flickr

The wind told me a story, this story blew in on a gentle night breeze, softer than the touch a luna moth’s wings and darker than the places between stars. It spoke to me of a land of the dead, and of music like none I’ve even known. Hear these words as told to me by the wind.

If you follow the path of the sun, follow it straight and follow it true to the place where it sets each day. There, through the fire and flame, past the dying light, is a forest. Well, no that’s like calling the Atlantic a body of water. If you follow the sun to the land where it dies there grows the Sea of Trees. It is exactly as it sounds, a forest vast as the open sea. Trees so tall that their branches grow to bracket the stars and their roots sink down to sip the stuff of other worlds. The forest belongs to the dead and the secrets they keep. The living should never trouble the dead. Of course what should be, and what is, often have miles of difference between them..

Grimoire and scrolls, books and stories tell of necromancers, those who would divine secrets from the dead. They detail incense and rituals to call up and bind the spirit, words to compel them, sigils to command them and hold them to the truth. In the Sea of Trees is their world, not ours. There the dead are not compelled by the living… Only madmen, fools, and those seeking to join their number attempt such a thing. They must be treated with, and in the long history of the Sea of trees there is only one thing they have ever been known to accept in exchange for their secrets or safe passage through their lands… music.

Now. Sam was a bard worthy of the name. With soft words he could charm birds down from trees. With a few bars gently hummed he could turn a mans heart. With his lute in his hand he could wring tears from a stone. Far and wide he was known as the greatest musician of his age. He wandered far, welcome any and everywhere for the gift of his music. He walked to the storm wall, and learned the music of the Everstorm. He tracked through Jackuracu, the burning plains, and learned the song of the desert and shifting sands. He traveled to the lands of giants, and to the peaks of the world’s end mountains to learn their music as well. Inevitably his travels brought him to The Sea of trees. On his first day he strode past the dying sun and where its flames leapt up to burn him and turn him back, he struck a note on his lute and intoned in a soft singsong:

“Peace , O flames of burning day, harm not your cousin made of clay.”

At his voice the fires parted before him and so he walked on. On the second day he found the edge of the forest. Before him trees and branches, vines and brush rose up in an impassible wall, sharp thorns and twisted growth rearing up and up and stretching on and on in all directions as far as he could see. At this he struck a chord on his lute and sang in a voice rich and proud:

“Where music flies there I will follow, through glen and forest, glade and hollow.”

Then, he looked hard at the wall of thorns and branches and he saw in it three notes of music clearly penned. He sang them out, he sang them hard and sharp and white as fire, and struck another chord on his lute. At the sound of that note, ringing out hard and pure and true the way opened before him and he walked on. On the third day, Sam found himself deep within the Sea of trees. All about him ranged the dead, in all shapes and sizes and forms both foul and fair. Many of them reached out to him some beckoning some demanding. Wisely he stepped aside– it is not a good thing for the dead to touch to living. At first he thought to continue on his way, but soon the dead crowded about him so thick that he could go no further safely. He stopped and looked and everywhere he saw the dead. He looked again and this time he saw the music in them, so he raised his lute and played that music, he played and sang it out in wild notes that shivered his soul, he sang it in mournful minor keys that set him to weeping, he set it free in leaping refrains that flitted about the trees in dazzling notes before flying off to dance among the dead. He wrapped himself in the song, wove it about himself in a glamour fit for the fae. At the sound of this music the dead stepped away and a path opened before him. Sam with the music burning in him walked on, he walked and he played for three days unceasing in the light of the sun, and for three days unceasing in the light of the moon. And on the dawn of the fourth day he saw a thinning in the trees and could see in patches the open sky. He sang on though thirst and hunger wracked him, he sang on though sleep blurred his thoughts and made his step stagger. A hundred yards to the end and he sang on though his throat was agony, fifty yards and he sang on, though he could barely remember why he was singing at all, twenty yards and he sang, though sleep was right there close enough to touch. Ten Yards and he sang.. even as a nightingale, a small thing flitting by overhead drew his eye. A small distraction, but that was all it took, there was a burr in his music a missed note…

His spell unraveled and the dead took him.

The wind says that if you follow the sun to the place where it dies each day, there through the fire and flame in the dying light you can hear music wild and otherworldly coming from the Sea of Trees.

Making Sure the Dead are Truly Dead and Gone

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Normally I hear my stories on the wind. It sings them to me on storm winds and sea breezes, it whispers them to me beneath the full bellied moon. It brings them up from forgotten places and plays me echoes of secret memories. Normally I share what I hear, this time let me tell you what I lived.

Some people have a knack for walking in the other world. It is a talent that can be learned, it can be trained and it can be honed. But some people, they just have it from birth. They walk through life straddling worlds, sometimes seeing in this one, sometimes gazing into others. This is a story about such a man. He is married to a dreamer, she is many things make no mistake, but above all else she dreams. Together they have a son, a toddling thing best described by his mother’s wide eyes and his father’s thirst for adventure. Completeing their family and filling their home is the Bear, a large man, shaggy and strong, gentle save when stirred to anger.

Now living where they live, and being what they are, they are no strangers to death. They have seen it from afar and they have held it in their arms. To the Dreamer death was a mystery and a puzzle, to the Walker death was an adventure and a promise.

So, tell me; what do you think they did when confronted with a situation where death and the newly dead were in their hands… why they Fucked it up of course. And therein lies the story…

It isn’t just humans who can become lost in the here after. The spirits of Birds and beasts can as well. Aye, they live closer to death, they have fewer walls erected between them and the truth of it. They are born knowing its nature, they live with it day to day hour to hour. Death however comes in more forms than there are stars to light the sky, so when it comes in a shape foreign and sudden… then can be a problem. If a deer is taken down by a wolf that is the nature of things, if a mouse is taken by an owl on the wing, that too is the nature of things. There is little shock and a clear understanding in the mind of the prey. There is fear. There is pain, but no suprise, no confusion. Death has come and they must surrender to it.

But what happens when death comes sudden, swift and strange to the predator, what does the wolf, or owl, the bear feel when they are struck down by the doings of Men. I think that for prey animals it is easier, they’re constantly dogged by the spectre of death, but for the hunter to be struck down causes a disconnect. The wolf knows old age, it understands thirst, and famine, disease. But what’s a rifle, what is a car to barrel up and pounce so brutally, to pulp flesh, snap bone, and savage organs. Whats worse it rolls on without a pause, no memory of prey to humble the predator, no flesh taken to fill an empty belly no purpose beyond clumsy power and inconsiderate speed. How does the predator reconcile its death to this?

Simply put, they often can’t. If you ever find yourself near the results of such a collision, take a moment and observe. There is a palpable miasma of confusion and indignity, an alpha predator reduced to a ragged bundle of fur or feathers crushed and tossed without a second thought.

I know what death is to me, through this experience I also have found what it means to me as a witch.

The Dreamer found the body, a wind tumbled ball of feathers left without ceremony on the roadside with its neck broken. She called the Walker to bring it home. He approached it with the care he would the honored dead, with gentle words to sooth it, and if truth be told to sooth himself. He was no stanger to spirits, but this one was lost and confused and its presence was echoe and emptyness. With what ceremony he could afford it, and such dignity as he could grace he brought it home, laid it beneath the familiar oak and begged it peace and easy sleep.

A day passed, then two, and he stopped feeling the spirit so strongly, he looked with eyes open in both worlds and saw nothing and so they put the body to the knife, passed it through incense and blessed it with prayer, some parts they preserved and the remains they put in the ground there beneath the sun and the branches of that oak.

Naive of the Dreamer, Foolish of the walker.

The Walker you see, he went walking the other world under the eye of the sun. Small wonder he found no sign of the lingering spirit then. It was nocturnal in life and so too in death. It wasn’t gone to its rest, only sleeping… Foolish, naive.

Only the oak bore witness to the momement when the spirit found its buried body. Only the oak and the wide night sky. The Walker wasn’t there to bear witness, he didn’t feel it, didn’t notice at all. The credit for that goes to their son, the toddling child all eyes and curiousity. “What’s that?” Sometimes that’s what it takes for that voice in the back of your head that’s been screaming “Hey idiot pay attention” to get its point across. The Walker didn’t see the how of things, he only saw the results. The wretched thing, lost and bearing the wounds of its death and the marks of its body’s internment in the ground. Shambling up like a night born creature from someone’s bleak and blackest dreamings. Empathy was never a gift of the Walker, but understanding… that he bore the burden of. This he understood on a primal level, the knowing of it settling on him full and heavy. With slow and deliberate care he reached out to the spirit. He wrapped it in threads of himself, spun thin and strong as spider silk. He tied it to him and made it whole. In his trance he saw it flying, and amidst the incense of cedar and lemon grass his son saw it too. “Flying, mama, happy” he giggled, pointed and signed.

Now in a fairy tale this would be the happily ever after. But fairies and their endings have no place in this tale today.

I think that this is not an end at all but a beginning, and that is where I will leave you. At the beginning.

Burial Rites

Bonekeeper

And they call her the Bonekeeper ~

She drums, the soft leather beater tapping out a steady rhythm that sounds out from the frame drum in her other hand. Her eyes close, her head tilts back and she begins to sway. Grass pricks at her bare feet and smoke of anise, mugwort, damiana, wormwood and mullein rises up in the low-hanging oakleaf canopy above her. Before her lies the feathered body of a great bird, her lover knelt beside it, knife in hand. The rhythm changes from a slow three-beat to a quickened four-beat. Dum dumdumdum dum dumdumdum… this is the burial rite. Wings are cleaved from torso, feet carefully detached, toes spread around a maple seed ball to hold them in place. Feathers are salvaged. These are all placed in layers of rock salt and covered with a tight-fitting lid to keep out moisture and those who would devour all. The rest is wrapped in burlap, and placed gently in a hole nearby, gaping wide from the dark earth where roots lie stirring with the new spring. More herbs are burnt upon the coal and poured into the hole with the Dead. In a few months time what remains when feather and flesh has been eaten away will be exhumed, he will bring out his herbs and smokes, and she will again bring out the drum, and this time, they will sing the bones back to life ~

Appreciating Your Tools

Originally posted December 16, 2012 by Midnight at his old blog, Storm & Spirits

I wonder, how many people out there really appreciate their tools and their magical implements. No matter what it is you work with, do you appreciate it? Do you understand it?  I can’t claim that I am always spot on with the latter but I try. As to the first, I don’t think I really did at all until I started crafting. I recently started learning to work metal ( blacksmithing ) and stone ( Flintknapping ) to make blades and frankly…that shit is hard. No joke. In general these are  complex crafts that take dedication and practice, and making a blade is at the top of the skills  tree. I have yet to turn out anything satisfactory but the effort is really eye opening to the worth of a good blade.

I have three blades that I have a ritual and or magickal attachment to and I don’t think I really appreciated them properly until I tried to shape one myself. I love them certainly, I care for them both as tools and as individuals. They have private names that I do not share, they are deeply tied to my practice. However, I don’t think I really appreciated them until I understood what went into their shaping.  Compared to this I hear of and have seen people mistreat their tools. I recently discussed someone intentionally blunting their knife, and I can’t help but cringe… I respect that they have a different view and that their practice is likely vastly different than mine. But it just strikes me as rude really both to the blade and to the craftsman to do anything but treat it with the utmost respect and care.

Many people likely fully appreciate their tools and I was just late to jump on the band wagon, but maybe this opened up a few eyes or sent a few guilt ferrets skittering up some shirts. Maybe I just  made someone curious about trying to make their own tools, ( knives aside, try crafting a staff or wand from scratch. It is not easy work to do to satisfaction. Don’t even get me started on a making and carving a bow or fletching arrows… )  I am not condemning anyone for just going out and buying their tools. We live in a modern world and frankly the skills to make our own equipment are just not common. Not to mention the time involved. But if you find yourself with the means and the time and most importantly the will, I suggest you give it a try. It can be an eye opener.

In the Dark of the Night

Originally posted over at Midnight’s blog, Storms & Spirits, December 14, 2012. 

I stand relaxed, swaying slightly, moving to my own inner rhythm. Slowly I stretch my senses, exchanging one sight for another as I close my eyes and let my other senses paint an image for me. More important than that I feel what is around me. I feel the faint sparks of energy, of life in the tree. I bow to it, fluid, formal, a gesture of respect.. I whisper to it. Lay my hand on it, long-fingered dark-skinned hand against rough bark. For a moment I feel the connection, I am part of something beautiful. ( I honestly cannot say more than that.. I have tried and nothing suffices. So since I can’t explain it well I will just say that it’s beautiful. ) I hear a pulse deeper, stronger than my own. Then I am myself again. Myself with something more, some faint lingering of the pairing, some residual connection. At the edge of my mind, another consciousness; the tree no longer so soundly asleep. Faint feelings of curiosity and other emotions, more and less than human rub against my mind. Herbed smoke wafts up from the coals, tongues of it wrapping around us with vaporous fingers. I reach down grabbing my bowl and with deliberate care empty the contents around the tree.  Circling again I bend low and touch the roots that stand above the ground. Words form in the back of my throat. Liquid, they flow from me. At last I sit amidst the roots and earth, herbed smoke and fallen leaves, and I laugh, long and clear.