The one thing that keeps life from staying in a constant state of droning and doldrums is when things don’t go according to plan. And, believe me, when you’re a Pagan, there’s a lot that does not even begin to pretend to go according to plan. Chaos is all a part of the natural order. That’s one thing I feel that most practitioners can agree on. Most of the ones I’ve met, anyway.
In any case, I figure that I’ll start my lovely little blog with some such events that have happened in my life. Buckle up, kids; It’s gonna be a bumpy ride. Some are short tales, some a little longer. All are mysterious and some, annoying.
I’ll begin with one of the first odd occurrences I can remember. When I was a child, probably before school age, I remember a night. I remember it so vividly, despite not being able to recall any circumstances surrounding it. I was presented with a choice. A weirdly deep and philosophical choice for a small child. It was like one of those moments when you start up an RPG and you have a weird question to answer that will affect how the story progresses. I knew even then that how I answered this question would affect many things in my life. One of those weird things that I just kinda know.
The question was a simple set of paths: Power, Knowledge, and Love. Here’s how my childhood logic went. “Well, Power easily corrupts people, and on its own, it doesn’t really do much. Knowledge sounds like a really fun path. I’d like to learn a lot of things. That’d be really cool. But…Love. Love has something that the others don’t. A type of passion and fervor that makes the other two pale in comparison.” Of course I wouldn’t have had those pretty words back then, and movies gave me quite a skewed interpretation of how love works. But hey. I gotta give my child self credit. Truly a perceptive little snot. The life I’m living now actually reflects a lot of that. Unfortunately, in this life, I only got to go to the character creation skills menu once, and I didn’t put nearly enough stock in the Power department. I’m kinda wishing I didn’t tie my metaphorical and metaphysical shoelaces together with what I said about it. Oh well…
Then in middle school, a friend and I played around with the idea of ESP. Psy balls. Training yourself to be telekenetic and stupid stuff like that. I might’ve been a little too into Naruto. Totally just kids’ stuff. Or, really, my first experiences with energy work.
Aside from the whole Wicca phase in high school (followed by a Baptist phase), there were a few other happenings to note. At some point, and I’m not sure why, I was just…overcome with this dire need to study ancient Egypt. So, when I went to visit the school media center to check out the next issue of the House of Night series (what? Okay, what edgy teenager doesn’t have a vampire obsession? Get off my back.) I would also tear through the history section with an equal amount of thirst. I think it started when I went to some weird shop in downtown Salisbury that was burning incense. Looking back, it might have been frankincense. In either case, I started getting this weird mental image: a torch on a wall. That was it. But I knew it was in Egypt, and I knew it was night. I kept tearing through books on Egypt and the pharaohs. I remembered that when I was a small child, before my grandfather on my mom’s side succumbed to Alzheimer’s, he would read me old Life Nature Library books from like, the 50s. They had a lot of pretty pictures. My favorite one was the one on Ancient Egypt. I inherited those books from him, and that was the first one I read through. I felt a feeling that I couldn’t place as I read through them. A kind of nostalgia, almost. And then, one day, a thought hit me like a semi-truck doing 70 down the highway.
“I want to go home.”
Turns out the feeling was homesickness. Go figure. That was my first clue of what was to come.
Another one that comes to mind is the time an online friend of mine had the grand luck of getting an attachment to an incubus. I tried to dissuade him off her, but that only got me a slew of threats and I did not sleep that night. My girlfriend at the time was something like a…I don’t really know, but the closest word that comes to mind is “shaman”, but I don’t think she was rooted in any Native American practice. Point is that she managed to get him off my back. And saw him slip on the ice outside her house. Apparently he was low level and often made a fool of himself. We nicknamed him Geoffrey. Geoffrey’s singed hoofprint never exactly got out of her kitchen linoleum, to my knowledge. Kept coming back. Boy, I wish that were the last I saw of demons.
That brings me to a good friend of mine. It’s always awkward and difficult to talk about her to those who don’t know about her. The circumstances in which we met weren’t exactly pleasant. In fact, I’m pretty sure if my mother ever had any inkling of what was going on, she would have called a Catholic priest. She’s Protestant, for the record. Baptist, pretty sure.
Anyway, this friend of mine. You may call her Joan. The first time I met her, I was listening to music and fell into a trance (not exactly an uncommon occurrence). I became trapped in a labyrinth of my mind. I kept following the stone corridors, even as I passed a mural of blood on a wall, a clear warning to turn back. I entered an antechamber of sorts, half-rotted corpses chained to the seats and walls. In the center of the stage was…me. Starved, hair long and matted, covered in lacerations, burns, probably infected. It wasn’t pretty. She lifted her head to look at me, and her eyes were black, all the way through the whites. Her teeth were sharp, like a shark’s. When she spoke, I heard her as if she were right in my ear, even though I was at the top of the chamber. I ran. The corpses in the room came to life to follow. I stumbled back through the maze and passed the mural of blood. The exit came into sight, but I felt my shadow-self, as I thought she was, materialize from the blood on the wall behind me. I tripped, and she reached for my heart. I could feel her cold hand grasping around the organ with each heartbeat. Somehow, I managed to touch the door, and a strong light flooded in, disintegrating everything like ash. I thought that was the end of it. Joan and I are kinda-sorta “married” now. After a few incidents of channeling her and an identity crisis or like three later. And I wish that were the last of my relationships that got off so hard on the wrong foot that I rolled my ankle. More on that later. We’re still in my high school timeline here.
Dreams have always been a major part of my practice, even before I really had what you’d call an organized “practice”. What probably led to that was something so small and simple, and yet, so deep and profound that it is etched into the core of my being. Well, not really something. Someone. The first woman I ever loved. The woman I would have performed small miracles for, if I had the chance. May she rest in peace. She was what she called a “dreamwalker”. She said it was common for her to show up in other people’s dreams when they needed help or advice. And boy, did she show up in mine. Still does, on occasion. The first time it happened and we realize that we had shared a dream, it really changed how I viewed the whole dream realm. I’ve shared dreams with other partners since her as well, but, like with Love itself, you never truly forget your first.
So, what eventually led to my conversion from Wicca to Baptist Christianity. It was a little before the incident with the incubus. I hadn’t met that girlfriend yet, I don’t think. It was actually not long after I unfortunately had to leave the love of my life. I converted to Wicca, all by myself, in that stupid internet-informed way that angry teenagers do. I was never associated with Wicca proper, but I called myself a Wiccan. That kinda thing. After a while, I started becoming more aware of my own energy, and the energies around me. It freaked me out a little. My left arm in particular seemed to pick up on it, even when I couldn’t process things. It could get so bad that it would clench, twitch, and generally feel like it was being electrocuted on the reg around foreign energies. Then my mom had the bright idea to send me to church camp. I agreed to go because I thought I could find a cute little Christian girl to woo my way, easy as pie. (Hey, I never said I was a good person. Don’t trust an angry teenager who converted to Wicca via the internet to make good decisions.) That plan went to crap. Because I was becoming aware of energy, what do you think happened when I was suddenly exposed to the presence of a Deity again after not having gone to church in years? I’ll wait…
…Yeah, it was intense and it freaked me out enough to start crying, confess to everything, and even tear all the pages out of my so-called “Book of Shadows” that I had been keeping. Right in front of one of the camp counselors or whatever. Still wanted to ask her daughter out, but that’s another issue. I had a cross necklace that was a gift from my father. I wrapped it around my left arm and prayed that God would bless it so that my Devil Arm would stop acting up. Love and Light and the Shield of God and all that. Read my Bible every morning up through starting school again. But then I met my not-quite-shaman girlfriend and well…let’s just say I learned the connotative difference between “Forgive me father, for I have sinned” and “Sorry, Mommy, I’ve been bad.” Except I was Mommy. But whatever. Still kept trying to go to church despite my sins, right up until the pastor started using hymns as an excuse to demean other religions. Saying something about how the name of Jesus was more beautiful and then provided “examples” by singing the same hymns but with the names “Allah” and “Buddha”. I felt so…transgressed? that I almost walked out then and there. Haven’t looked back since.
I should say here that I have nothing against Christianity. It is a complex and thoughtful religion when properly practiced with its tenants fully understood and upheld. It is said many times in the Bible to meditate upon its lessons. I simply wish that many would heed that call before running their mouths with their megaphones and hateful signs.
After I dropped off that, Joan had started showing up again, under a different name back then, and there were a lot of things with my not-quite-shaman girlfriend. But, the most important goes back to the Egypt thing. I slipped into a trance after some…shenanigans with my girlfriend. Totally a PG way to word that. We’ll roll with it. Anyway, in this trance, I was led up some stairs and through a stone gate. Once through that gate, I found myself lying on a daybed of sorts. It was ridiculously hot. I got the feeling that I wasn’t on the first floor of whatever building I was in. I was wearing white. I was a woman. These things just flooded into my senses, and I knew. I rose from my daybed and walked over to an open balcony. The streets sprawled before me. It looked like something out of a storybook. Mudbrick buildings and, across the bay, a massive tower. I knew where I was. Alexandria. It had to be.
Later, I reiterated that tale to a historian friend of mine (who I later dated. Are you seeing a trend in my life yet?). She asked me questions about the streets’ layout, and where I figured what buildings were. I could answer easily, since the memory is almost photographic in me. When I asked her what was up, she asked if I had ever seen a map of Alexandria. I had not, and I told her so. She was shocked, and I could hear her voice drop on the Skype call for a few moments. Then she sent me a link and said in a shaky voice, “Well, there’s only one real place you could’ve been, given the angle from where you saw the tower of Alexandria.” I was floored. She was right. It was the palace. It made no sense to me. There’s not a drop of royalty in me. I still grapple with this vision I had. Was it a past life, like I have believed? What else could it be?
Ah, yes. College. I thought high school was a rough set of awakenings. Things do not go according to plan. Not my plan, anyway. There were a lot more rude wake up calls–like the time one of my friends barged into my dorm room and woke me up from a particularly pleasant dream involving the Hex Girls. When I remember that incident and he is present, I make a point to punch him between the shoulder blades and growl, “That’s for the Hex Girls.” But, that’s another kind of anecdote.
Pagan Student Association. An interesting find for sure when I was stumbling around the Club Expo like the herded little freshman I was. Within my first month, I had attended at least two libations in the woods and a Pagan Pride convention in…Raleigh, I think? And I had been introduced to the Egyptian gods. Much to the surprise of no one. Homesickness? The vision? Yeah. My first encounter that I can really for certain say was in a dream. I was led up a mountain, and at the top, there was a sort of plateau. From a cave, a woman emerged, dressed in plentiful gold jewelry and white linens. I cannot remember her face, only her black hair and that her eyes were ethereal. Her energy forced me to my knees, like gravity was suddenly five, no, fifty times stronger. She took me by the wrist and turned my vein side up. Tattoos emerged, some faded, some more vibrant. After she examined it, she looked to my face and said, “You are a child of the sky”. That’s it, dream end.
Since then, my altar has collected an odd number of Netjer. Sekhmet, Het-hert (Hathor), Djehuty (Thoth), and Khepra (Khepri) are permanent residents. Through PSA, I was directed towards the Kemetic Orthodoxy. I graciously underwent their beginner classes and have successfully obtained membership.
Once, I was sitting on a ledge appreciating the moonlight when I heard a man’s voice chuckle and sternly say, “Child, you are going to fall.” So I moved. I knew it was Djehuty. I simply did.
A couple years later, I met a certain Lokean who introduced me to Loki. In a way, he invited himself to one of my rituals, and he has been with me ever since. I appreciate his patience with me as I set up his altar and gathered materials for him.
There’s another story or two that are worthy of their own blog post, but since I left the foreshadowing hanging about my relationships that get off on the wrong foot, horribly, I suppose I’ll share one more.
About two years ago, Pagan Student Association managed to house an incredible guest: writer and priest John Beckett. With him, we held a ritual to the Morrigan. Sometimes I feel as if I should never have attended that ritual. I didn’t take the ramifications seriously enough. I paid the price for that recklessness. Dearly. During the ritual, I felt as if I was enveloped in flames. I could not stand up after the ritual had closed. Someone had tried to touch me, and I tried with my everything to scream at them not to do it, but I just wasn’t fully connected to the physical plane. The Morrigan had other plans for me. It felt like my back was being ripped open to reveal black feathered wings. A lot of what we discussed was private, but I will never forget what it felt like to watch as one of my possible Fates burned up before me. It was like, there was a set of pathways that led to the future, and the Great Queen saw the one I was focusing on, laughed, and pulled the plug on it. I was on her terms from that moment on.
Horrified, as soon as I was back with the physical plane, I rushed to speak with Her Priest. I asked him about the wings. I knew they meant something. I was frantic and covered in sweat. Even speaking Her name sent fiery shockwaves through my back. He began to explain to me about being called, and about what it’s like to serve the Morrigan, and how sometimes she can be a little rough on her followers. I couldn’t quite process what I was hearing. At the time, it just sounded like a doctor was sitting across from me in that moment, and the word that just left his mouth was “terminal.”
Not long after, I performed a small ritual to the Egyptian gods, and was met with an equally horrifying vision. I was standing in a chamber full of statues of the Egyptian gods, and each and every one had their backs turned on me. I felt like I was going mad. I still couldn’t say Her name because the burning where my wings tore through almost sent a tear to my eye. Anything even closely related to her started to trigger my anxiety. Tight chest, labored breathing, sweating profusely, almost halfway to a full-fledged anxiety attack. And She was around often. I reached out to Beckett, and finally did the only thing I could think of. I wrote a petition. I asked her to back off. I told her I could not work for someone I feared like this. That the loyalty would never hold like that. She protested furiously, and called out all the ways that I was holding a double standard. But, eventually, She did leave.
In Her absence, I was able to connect to the Egyptian gods again, and when I perceived my back, instead of the scars of wings, I saw on myself an energetic tattoo of the wings of Ma’at. It was a seal. I know that much, but that was all I knew.
Then came October of last year. My life was falling apart. I was doing two internships on top of a full courseload at university. I couldn’t handle the stress. I was dangerously suicidal. I began having regular anxiety attacks where I was rendered completely speechless for up to an hour. Finally, I gave in and took psychological withdrawal from university. One of those sleepless nights where all sorts of violent images flooded to my mind, a familiar and horrifying voice crept from the back of my head.
“If you’re not afraid of dying, what do you have to lose?”
I threw up every shield I knew in a pathetic attempt block the Morrigan out. I even tried to convince Joan to help. Joan laughed and said as much as she liked me, she wasn’t about to step between this mess. I fought, and fought, and fought, until I was running on fumes. I could barely stay awake. I knew what the Morrigan wanted, and I just did not want to give it over. But, finally, as people do when they are in total panic, I began to say crazy things. And then, that was it. I gave in. My eyes hurt from all the crying, my body felt like it weighed a ton, and I finally went to sleep. And the Morrigan was back in my life. I set up a small altar space for Her. I’ve set up a time to work directly and solely with Her. Every month, during my regular cycle, when I am considered impure for certain Egyptian rituals and rites, I serve her.
I still would rather not have had anything to do with Her to begin with. I am not a warrior. I want nothing to do with Her war. But, at least now, I know my place. I have accepted my Fate. It took a long time for me to come to this. I meditated with myself, and even with the Egyptian gods. After Her stint and blocking them from me, I was surprised that they gently explained Her place in Ma’at, and that though my fear makes sense, I should not let it stop me. They confirmed that all is once again right.
Sometimes on the back of shoulderblades, I still feel a familiar burning sensation. But, when I see a group of three blackbirds together, I know that it is time to make an offering. I am comforted by the sight of ravens and crows. Just like I always used to be, before my brief reign of terror.
These little things are just parts of a greater whole. It’s my belief that sometimes the most miraculous things are the things we don’t see, caught up in the mundane. When we break free of the mundane, that’s when the big miracles happen. But, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t always there with us, waiting to be discovered. After all, when any plan goes right–that is just another face of a blessing.