As a child I was fascinated by the mythology my grandfather taught me, by the folklore that brought the land I love to life with strange, unworldly creatures and even stranger possibilities. Where rocks told stories and the very ground I lay upon, watching the shooting stars, or the storm gods battle in the clouds, was the body of a goddess.
In my teens, that fascination evolved into curiosity. The philosophies I had absorbed from my strange, religiously eclectic family took on depth and meaning and I delved into any and everything I could to find the ‘right’ path. I experimented with Low Magic, the kind of things that are useful for proving to oneself that the unseen not only exists but is malleable. With control came assured belief, which in its turn assured greater control, and thus deeper belief.
Discernment set in, and the right path seemed to call me. I studied the Tree of Life, ceremonial magic, and the esoteric tradition of the West, tempered with the philosophies of the East.
The Tree made sense of Life, the Universe, and Everything and gave me answers that made slightly more sense than ‘42’. Life had pattern and purpose, a definite direction, and an explanation for anything that occurred, good or bad. Learning to understand and mould my Self into a tool worthy of its purpose taught me much about myself.. and much I didn’t really want to admit! Seeing one’s faults through the eyes of the soul is never easy! Trying to correct those faults and flaws, through meditation, ritual and a constant awareness and vigilance is, in itself, a lifetime’s work.
But it was magic that drew me. The wild elation of a solitary ritual on the high moor, where the storm that rages around you also rages through you with elemental power or the beauty of a silent communion with the gods. It was, I felt, what I was born to do.
I collected the ritual items I needed, learned the language of ritual, the gestures, and the prayers, sat for hours hand-sewing my robes, and studied ceaselessly. I learned to carry the forms of the gods within me, learned what they feel like when they and the self become One.
I made my Temple… the makeshift kind, that one can pack away when the world intrudes, and built the astral Temple around it so that the physical one was a mere symbol of reality. My meditations were formal and regimented, documented precisely to monitor my progress. I exercised my mind with all the dedication of an athlete, dreaming of a future when the spare bedroom would be a permanent temple.
Yet, gradually, I found that the robe stayed packed away, the altar was undressed, the books stayed on the shelf. To all outside knowledge, I could have abandoned my work. The crystal gathers dust inside its shroud of silk, the candles remain unlit.
But I have found that in forgetting the trappings of ritual, in silencing the inner debate on the nature of the gods, in simply Being what I believe in, the inner worlds have opened up in an indescribable way.
In the inner Temple, the torches burn and the Gods breathe. And there is a peace that passes understanding.
There is power there too. Not the magic of childhood, nor the wild, passionate magic of youth, but a power nonetheless that works inwards and upwards, that is alive and vibrant, yet deep as the most ancient sea of interstellar space. I cannot describe it, but I can feel it.
In spite of all that life has thrown at me recently (and life has a pretty good aim and a fairly lethal arsenal!) and despite the physical turmoil of emotions, there is an underlying kernel of serenity and the knowledge that whatever happens is right and needful.
There has been a sense of standing on a threshold for some time, and I feel that in writing this, a decision has been made to cross over. To begin a new chapter of life. Perhaps, as one of today’s great ladies has said, we all become mystics in the end. This used to worry me. I was afraid to let go of the security of ritual, afraid of the unstructured meanderings of the mind that I could see. Afraid to relinquish the hard-won control of the magician.
Yet perhaps, this glimpse of serenity foreshadows what she meant. This inner working, rather than the laboured theatricals of the rituals I loved. There is a great abyss to cross here, carried on the wings of faith alone, and it is both a little scary and awesomely attractive. Who or what will I be on the other side? I don’t know. But I know that I will take the chance and leap with a whole heart.