Much of what changed in my world began a little before I started, soul-wrenching dreams and strange spiritual panics in the face of what I understood of the world changing around me. And there’s been this really…dark thread throughout it that I don’t look at much, waiting for myself to understand.
For years, I’d have a repetitive dream of a massive subterranean industrial complex with no natural light. I’d explore more and more of it each time I returned there, and the dreams would shake me far into the light of morning. A year before I started Druidry, I’d taken to writing prisoners, a timeless leftist tradition. I began a correspondence with a gay metal-head in a southern prison who quickly revealed he was a Heathen, and we’d began talking about Paganism. The dreams I’d been having intensified while writing him, and I’d see more and more of this strange underground complex.
I had to stop writing him. He progressively revealed to me his Neo-Nazi leanings, which we’d argue about until the day a letter arrived from him with a shirtless photo of him (he was an attractive bloke)…in front of a Nazi flag. I was so nauseated I couldn’t continue writing him, regardless of the possibility that I might be able to show him he was being a fucking idiot.
I’d forgotten about him until now, and there’s something I forgot I realized, and something we should all fear.
The Elder and The Golem
Years before, a lover had found an uprooted elder in our alley, left to die. He’d asked the women at the house if he could have it, and she called her husband on the phone asking if the neighbor’s landscapers could have the dying tree (we often got mistaken for not-belonging in the neighborhood we lived, despite having lived there years longer than those making such judgments).
For weeks, he and I nursed the tree back to life. It lost its original living branches but sprouted new ones soon after, and so much love and life had gone into that tree that it became something more than a tree. It became a guardian. My best friend would leave offerings to the spirits there, I’d hang candles in its branches.
A few months after I stopped writing the prisoner, my roommate had done a ritual involving the tree and a golem and perhaps some not-so-nice magic. For weeks, there was this…screaming in my head, incomprehensible, unintelligible. I thought I was going insane. All was relentless panic, and at the same time a relationship that had already begun to unravel suddenly became utterly intolerable to me, like I couldn’t look at him without hearing that screaming in my head.
Exhausted (I didn’t sleep well for weeks), worried by what was going on in my head, and perturbed by the statements of my lover that he’d been seeing a weird fleshy creature wandering around the room at night in his dreams, I found myself looking at the Elder tree and noting that it was dying.
I knew no magic or rituals or anything. But I began digging in the dirt around the tree, extracting buried dark things (careful with your rootwork, y’all), giving offerings to the spirit of the tree and praying (to whom? I don’t know) and uttering a blessing as my body shook in some strange power I didn’t comprehend.
You should know something. I didn’t believe in this. At all. I’d been reading Tarot for years and lighting candles on an altar with cool-looking but meaningless bric-a-brac for years (leaves, feathers, a bell, a gear, a brass chalice of water), but it meant nothing to me, just some nice thing that made my life a little more beautiful. I’d been a functional atheist with whimsical ideas for most of the preceding decade. If the gods were anything, they were great stories, archetypes, or all dead.
I watched the tree immediately get better and watched my roommate suddenly get so ill over three days that he collapsed on our living room floor, muttering incoherently about dreams of being choked by snakes and feeling that the elder tree suddenly hated him.
I didn’t know what I was doing, except that I’d learned it all in a book from a man in a dream when I was young, and the last time I tried to find out more about this I was pinned to the ground by some…thing…with charred skin. What’s that mean, huh?
The Tower, the Candle, the Cauldron
Three years before all of this, I remember making a conscious choice to shut off my spirit. I’d been having really intense visions that scared the fuck out of me, not that they themselves were frightening, but that I had them at all was terrifying to me.
One was of a white tower. I still see it in my head, clearly. I knew it, knew I’d encounter it, knew I was supposed to see it, and knew I couldn’t endure the sort of life I had to live in Seattle while having those visions. So, I stopped.
Around Samhain of the year before I started Druidry, that same roommate made me a door-opening candle, as I was losing a job and had no idea what I’d do next. My relationship with my lover was horrible at this point, and we were both close to being in abject poverty.
Door-opening candles open doors. They’re just not the ones you demand. As an aside, I’ll admit that I’ve had to swallow back a lot of vomit and bile regarding recent talk about magic and money. I honestly want to shake every prosperity magician in the world and then take them on a tour of the homeless shelters I worked at for four years and say, “use your fucking magic to fix this, you selfish pricks.”
Doors opened everywhere and closed elsewhere. A new lead singer for my medieval-rock band, which resulted in the end of my relationship with my lover. A slow trudge through a pouring rain in a Seattle winter, most of my life in my backpack (I wasn’t homeless–I chose to give my former lover our place for awhile since he had nowhere else to go and I did). A sudden brutal fuck between that singer and myself after tears and I’m suddenly screaming in a voice that doesn’t feel like mine, “I resist the goddess no more.”
Which goddess? I didn’t know yet. But there’d been the dream of the village in Bretagne. I’m with the now-former lover. We’re fucking with a third guy and I’m not really part of it because I want to be elsewhere and there’s this women staring at me as it’s happening, a look that beckoned, that said “come outside.”
So I did, and I’m walking towards a village where there are people who have power over me are gathered, and I notice there’s another path, a chemin, and so I try to walk up there and there’s an old woman barring my way.
She’s in front of a cauldron, and she demands I answer questions, and I do, and then she tells me I can now use these paths and none that would harm me can follow.
Those paths are dark, you should know.
Imbolc and the Well
I’d considered starting Druidry a year before I started. It wasn’t time, or I made excuses. This happens.
On Imbolc, two months after the end of that relationship, I am praying to Brigid. I don’t realize it’s Imbolc, I’m such a mess. No work, dwindling resources, alone, terrified. My band’s lead-singer and I had a brief really intense relationship (brutally carnal, flesh-tearing soul-fucking) and then ended because it wasn’t good for me. I needed to be alone, to go find something.
I pray to her. I don’t really believe in her a few seconds before I start praying to her, and then I realize I don’t have a good reason not to believe in her. I pray for clarity, some fucking peace, and some idea of what all of this shit I’d been seeing and going through fucking meant, what I was supposed to do, what it meant to have parted with that lover, whether I should try again with him or go my own fucking way.
A day later, I felt such brutal serenity, such feral certainty, such raging clarity. I lived on the top floor of an old house with a massive balcony overlooking the Cascades and Lake Washington, and I stood outside, staring at the world, knowing something I’d hoped was true my entire life actually was.
She existed. She was before me. So were others who I couldn’t see yet. And I laughed, realizing it’d been Imbolc.
I decided I’d do Druidry. I sent off the money for OBOD, and that day ended up talking to someone who’d started it already, a powerful friendship. The witch-roommate (of the candle and the golem) gave me Greer’s Druidry Handbook and I devoured it, and almost immediately, the dreams and visions got even more fucking intense.
One night, I’m at a well. I know this well, I know where it is. Two people are taking me on walks through the chemins, one at a time, teaching me something I need to know. Each time we return to the well, and I wake, shuddering, terrified of an even greater darkness then I’d suspected.
I’ve had a few close friends express jokingly that they’re envious of the preponderance of visions and experiences I’ve had since this all started. And…I don’t understand.
Know what’s it like to try to walk to a Marian shrine to pray because you need some peace and have this overwhelming physical force push you back and say, “no. It’s time to meet another god?”
Or to be midway through sex with a guy and watch his face contort into the face of another god and then have wickedly intense visions of another goddess that you didn’t realize you’d known for years show up at the same fucking time?
Or to have a man roll off a bed, doubled over in pain, demanding to know why the fuck you “let” a giant punch him in the stomach and you really don’t know what to say except whisper “thank you?” The same giant who was sorting through your head disapprovingly noting that you’d fallen in love with some atheist boy that wasn’t gonna fucking happen on Their watch?
Or to cry on top of a Breton druid mountain, exhausted, as a figure dressed in sea-foam derides you for not remembering how the fortifications of a temple are assembled? To have a necklace you spent a week assembling explode in front of a statue of St. Theresa and so you flee back on the Breton streets utterly unclear if anywhere is really safe ever?
To have multiple friends tell you dreams of your death?
To have The Morrigan show up briefly not to say something nice or helpful but to scare the bloody fuck out of you and make really certain you know that She’s watching and will destroy you if you fuck shit up?
I’m not complaining. I used to. I think that started to sound false, even as I meant every bit of that. Then I realized that it wasn’t going to do me any good to complain, because this was happening and I should just fucking grow up. I’m not entirely happy about growing up. But I’m 37. I guess it was pretty close to about time.
The Darkness at the Gates
But I think I can talk about the Gates.
You can scry the gates of the Wheel of the Year. John Michael Greer’s The Druid Magic Handbook explains this quite well, and I recommend this book if anyone really wants to fuck up their mundane world.
I’ve been enchanting stones to use during grove rituals. I’ve four now. The first guards the gate of Lugnasadh. It’s a stone I found at the sea. There’s a hill past there. Climb up it and you can see more than you want to, the march of time and how we’ve fucked something up really, really badly.
At the gate of Samhain, there’s the horror of what we got from Them and how we’ve used it to shut them out. That one was really hard to see, and not because of all the dead.
At the gate of Imbolc, that story continues. Something really horrible is coming. That stone is from Menez-Hom, where I was berated for being so slow to learn how to defend a temple. I was surrounded by candles lit in my grove as I saw this. My three year old nephew had a dream that same night seeing, instead a of man trembling at this knowledge, his uncle being licked on the nose by a she-bear. Sort of wish I’d seen that, too, but it was enough to know it happened.
And at Beltaine, I saw the cliffs. I’ve seen these cliffs before, as have others. You can face what you have to do, or you can jump, and it’s not the death you think it is. It’s a fucking living death, the choice to hide in madness, to shut that door, to wall out the Other, to climb the stairs of a tower and stare instead at a mirror, “to weave the mirror’s magic sights,” instead of stare into this darkness.
This is all I can say, I guess. I have to go find a dead man, and find out what else this strange magical town wants me to know before I leave it to the next place. I also wouldn’t mind knowing why the woman I was in a vision is a skeleton on a mural, and why being here is really like being chained to a 500lb piece of hematite. Should feed more crows. Maybe ride my bike with the huge chunk of obsidian in my right fist like I did yesterday, feeling all black and red and glorious rage and then sip more tea and talk to my lover.
Then, probably more writing about how this gods-shit isn’t happy flowering garlanded find-your-own inner peace while the earth screams below us, the spirits wither and rage and comfortable old people shake their heads at us mad prophets with our twisted genders and seething anger at what they’ve failed to notice this entire time. If I hear one more time that things are fine in the world or nothing can really change or all we need to do is to chant the drivel off a Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle, I won’t be polite any longer.
And, yeah, going on to Ovate after this.
Be fucking well. I fucking am.