I’m just going to hide this post behind a warning, because this post is as the title suggests, about pain. A further disclaimer – it’s not meant as a commentary on anyone’s life, health, or choices other than my own.
It is November and the annual madness has officially taken hold. It is five days into NaNoWriMo and my official word count is at just over 15,000. For the sake of expedience as I didn’t have the time or energy to world-build for a new novel this year, I have resorted to my last writing resort, fan fiction.
Spinning my own tales using existing characters and world is how I became interested in writing fiction. This is the first time, however, I’ve ever taken the time to write down one of those spin-off stories. Usually the tales remain strictly in my head, the stuff of daydreams in idle moments. I’ve decided that I would write a story about Hogwarts ten years after Voldemort’s final defeat. At its core, it’s a story about characters who were marginalized, broken, and ruined by the Ministry in the years after the war. As I said, it was a last resort, a desperate attempt to get something resembling a story on paper.
In the process of writing this draft, I spent an hour yesterday on a conversation about one character’s view of spell work. He differentiates it into two types – 1). spells that are effective because the person on whom it is used believes that magic has power and 2). spells whose power lies in the spell caster’s ability to shape the nature of reality (requiring no belief whatsoever). An argument then ensues about whether the former is truly magic or simply form of psychological manipulation and whether or not someone who performs that kind of magic can truly call themselves a witch.
After I’d finished writing that section, I thought “Hmm, that’s interesting. Where in Hades did that come from?” I haven’t given a lot of thought to the nature of what makes spells stick, because I rarely do spell work aimed at anyone else (the liminal work that constitutes much of what I do is very different beast than conventional spell work). I realize that the theory above has loopholes that a truck could drive through and simplifies the issue too much, but it does have me thinking about where the power of spell work does lie. Is a curse effective simply because the person on whom it is cast believes, in however small a way, that curses have power? Or does a curse’s efficacy lie solely with the caster and their ability to affect the circumstances of another person’s life?
For now, I’m just going to agree with the response that was given by another character: “Magic just is. It doesn’t need a theory or a philosophy. Must you overthink everything?” Ah, the joys of having philosophical debates in one’s own head.
There is a certain damp chill to the air today and the trees rattle their leaves like some many loose bones in the breeze. The afternoon threatens those who would wander outside with the threat of skin-scouring mists and bone-numbing drizzle. Crows are roosting in the snug safety of nearby branches, their silhouettes creating dark holes in the gold and russet arboreal tapestries. Their calls herald the arrival of autumn, a far better indicator of the season than any day marked on human calendars.
This time of year is by far my favorite and today and tomorrow are the most favored of the season. Today is a celebration of both the secular and the sacred. I’ll open the doors of my house to both trick-or-treaters and to the blessed dead. Candy will be served to the children of the neighborhood and those parents who themselves never outgrew the spooky fun of Halloween. For the dead, there will be offerings of food, prayers, and blessings. The celebrations this year will be much more low-key than last, with the spiritual aspects being observed in my typical solitary style.
Tomorrow is set aside on my personal calendar as a frenzied celebration of the creative spirit. November 1st kicks off National Novel Writing Month, so the day will find me writing wildly, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and occupying a world that exists largely in my own head. I believe in celebrating those things which bring you joy… and for me, there is a great deal of joy to be found in seat-of-my-pants speed writing. After a year that’s given little opportunity for writing, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in storytelling again.
Wishing you all a Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain, and Fruitful All Novels Day!
297 days. That’s how long it’s been since my feet had trod the trail that’s been referred elsewhere in this blog as the Temple of Mud, Sweat, and Blood. Three seasons have come and gone without so much as a single footfall. Physical incapacity has kept me away from this moving meditation for months; fear has barred my way when physical pain no longer prevented me from returning.
I returned to the Temple of MSB this morning for a slow and cautious hike, as there is still months of recovery before I can contemplate running again. Today’s return was an act of sacred (but much dreaded) duty. Not wanting to think too hard about why I’d come back, I focused my attention on the trail itself and some improvements that had been made in my long absence. It occurred to me for the first time that I’d taken for granted the trail other than as it pertained to my own footsteps upon it. Someone had come long before me to forge a passable path through wild nature; other hands left trailblazes to guide the way; an unseen army works unceasingly to clear trash and fallen timber; a forest ranger frequently checks the area for anything problematic. Likewise, my ability to walk today has been the result of so many dedicated folks who made it their jobs to get me back on my feet. Though I was walking alone through the forest, I could not have claimed this space as my own without the work and assistance of so many people.
I may have entered the woods alone today, but it was not done as a individual acting in isolation. Avoiding this particular trail has been an act of cowardice and denial on my part. It is the place where I first met Sam. In the days since his passing, I have felt called there by his spirit. It is a call that I haven’t not wanted to answer, because I felt that I have failed him in this life. Michael ultimately pushed me to answer the call, by reminding me that, in denying Sam, I am failing to do the work that I’m sworn to do. Damn his eyes for being both correct and logical. In the end, Sam simply wanted to let me know that he has found the peace that he so desperately sought in life.
As I hiked out of the woods, I had a bit of an epiphany. While I have long described myself as a solitary practitioner, the term is a misnomer. As is the case with the Temple of MSB and with my physical well-being, I am not working in spiritual isolation. Ever. Deities, guides, guardians, gatekeepers, helpers, and human souls are all a part of the work that I do. Without the ubiquitous others, I could not do the work that has been charged to me. There is never a time in my work when other sentient beings are not involved, never a moment when interdependence ceases. Solitary implies that I am walking this path alone. While the path is my own, I am never alone in my practice, never wholly independent. Always, someone stands behind me, before me, or at my back, motivating me to continue this work. For every one of those individuals, I am grateful.
(This post was written as a part of the Cauldron Blog Project 2015 for the July theme of Independence/Interdependence.)
After my first full night’s sleep in several days, I have decided to take down my last post. It didn’t come out quite the way I’d intended. My original purpose in writing it was to talk about finding oneself suddenly thrown into a unexpected working partnership with another practitioner. What came out instead had more whinge than substance. The focus ended up being on the awful events of the week, which really is not what I set out to do. In my rambling, I unintentionally put a spotlight on someone else’s pain in a way that caused more hurt, for which I am sincerely sorry.
I do plan to revisit my original idea for the post, but want to do so in more thoughtful way. It might be best to approach this retrospectively, after
I have we have a better idea of the shape of this working partnership. Right now, there are more urgent matters that need attention than speculation about intersecting paths and shared work. The focus now needs to be burying the dead, mourning for what is lost, and caring for those who still live. Everything else will wait.
Last Samhain was the first time in quite awhile that I’ve done any sort of ritual practice with others present. Being a coven of one usually isn’t an issue, but lately I’ve been feeling the absence of other pagans in my daily life. Old pagan friends have drifted away or crossed the threshold without new ones taking their places. I miss interacting with people who speak the same spiritual language.
As if I weren’t feeling nostalgic enough for things past, I received a little “saw this and thought of you” gift this week – a sandalwood rose Solstice candle. The giver had no way of knowing but this scent evokes strong memories of my earliest days on this path. It was a period of being broken wide open in an excruciatingly painful way. Time has eroded away the sharp and painful edges of those memories and softened the scars left by those days.
The unexpected gift was not the candle itself, but the realization that I am no longer hostage to those past hurts. The scent leaves me filled with comfort and hope, rather than reminding me of the heartbreak and sorrow that predominated the period. The giver has given a gift worth so much more than they can know. It is a good reminder that even a self-proclaimed solitary can still find love and support in the loneliest of times.
The candle is sitting on my altar at the moment, waiting for Solstice sunrise to be lit. Long may it burn and long may those friendships linger in my memories.
Just a quick update to say that the memorial shrine previously linked on this blog has ceased to be. The website that hosted the shrine has closed down after an eight year run, to the disappointment of many. Since I haven’t been able to find a good replacement, I’m creating a memorial shrine on this blog. Link is at the top of the page. It’s nothing exciting, but does at least give a space to remember and honor those who have gone. Memorials may be left as a comment on the page. I’ll give this a trial run over the next few weeks and if it looks feasible, will maintain it as a permanent part of the blog.