This week a friend of mine saw me looking at some of the sites online that I have come to enjoy. sarahannelawless.com is one of those sites. When I read her blogs and look at her art, it takes me back to the wise woman of old. It reminds me so much of what life may have been like for the cunning man or the old wise woman living in the woods on the outskirts of town.
When he saw me looking at the skulls and the artwork on her page (much of which is done in black and white), he asked if I was becoming a Goth Witch. I almost laughed out loud because my thought of what gothic is and what other people’s ideas of gothic….may be completely different. I think the term gothic, for those in the everyday, common work-a-day world has come to mean depressing, colorless and rebellious. I see it as none of those things. I see gothic as a return to times past…aged, medieval….reminiscent of a romantic era. This period, to me, represents cigars and brandy and Edgar Allen Poe. I don’t see it as ominous, oppressing and depressing. I look back on this time and think of the midwives and the wise women with herbal remedies to supplement the work of doctors of the day.
He asked me why I have become so fascinated with skulls. I explained that it wasn’t necessarily a ‘fascination’ with skulls (though I do find them intriguing and beautiful), but instead, honoring the spirit of the animal to which it had belonged. I come from the school of thought that everything has a spirit. I was taught this at an early age by my grandmother. The trees have a spirit….every animal has a spirit…even the earth, herself, has a spirit…a heartbeat. It is in using these parts of the animals (skulls, feathers, bone and fur) that I am able to access that spirit and see the world with a greater enlightenment than I would with my mundane human eyes. If anything, working with the spirits of these animals and trees has taught me to see the universe around me with heart and with spirit….to feel the heartbeat of the very creature I work with. I don’t go out killing anything to use for my magick….that isn’t a part of me, but when I am out and chance upon a gift from a particular animal—skull, bones, feather or fur, I give thanks to that creature and utilize that gift in my rituals. Life has become something so different now than when my grandma was a girl. Back then you hunted to survive and you used every part of an animal…even in ritual…to bring honor to that creature. It is too easy now to kill for the sake of killing.
He looked at me quizzically as I explained. Everything….dead or alive…has a spirit…has a heartbeat. When you hold a crystal in your hands, the vibrations work with your own bodies vibrations….the heartbeat. The energy that you feel as you sit in the dirt leaning against a tree….the heartbeat. He asked if I was constantly thinking about my own mortality. I answered him honestly. “I no more think about my own mortality than I do about breathing.” Yes, I am in my ‘croning’ years…where everything constantly reminds me that I am getting older…my body, more than anything, seems to be relentless in this. I told him that if one looks at life honestly that we begin the journey toward death at the exact moment we are born. I do not fear death….I do not crave death…but when it is time for my journey on this plane to end…I shall dance into the summerlands with death skipping along side of me.
As we discussed my love for working with the spirits of the animals, stones and trees…he still looked quite perplexed. I led him over to my altar and took my crow skull from the bed of crystals. I placed it into his hand and asked him to close his eyes. “What do you feel?” “It feels like it’s buzzing.” I place my merlinite into his other hand. “What do you feel?” “It feels like my brain is slowing down.” “You have just been introduced to the heartbeat of the crow and the merlinite.” I could tell by watching him that this wasn’t going to be something that processed overnight. I could see his thoughts moving back and forth in his eyes as he sat down in the chair. That’s ok. I didn’t understand this overnight either…it was a process…a time of letting my own spirit grow and learn.
This morning, that little blue chihuahua and I made our way to the woods. I packed my backpack full…candles, skulls, fur, feathers…anything I might need. The latest addition to my altar is an Alaskan wolf skull. It was found in the wilds of Alaska surrounded by whatever carcass and bones the vultures and other wildlife may have left. It isn’t perfect….it is missing teeth. It has been cleaned and bleached and smudged. I honor the spirit of the wolf who walked the wilderness….who died at the hands of nature.
Friz and I walked slowly this morning. The overabundance of rain has got both of us feeling a bit creaky. As we get to the edge of the woods, I can smell that earthy, mossy smell that I can only get when I am lost in the magick of the trees. It is overcast….the moon is still there somewhere. The woods are dark and I can feel that heartbeat under me. I settle under a tree and dig out enough earth for my candles. I place the wolf skull and the crow skull on the ground. I feel the energies of wolf and crow there with me. Today I stretch out on my belly underneath that tree in front of my small altar. Friz thinks it is great fun and lies down on my back….licking the back of my head. He eventually goes to sleep and I can feel his breath against the middle of my neck. As I sang the names of those dear to me….sending energy and strength and hope and healing…I lost track of time. I didn’t notice that the woods had gotten darker or that there was a spitting of raindrops every so often….it was too peaceful to notice.
I covered myself and Friz with my cloak and we both drifted off to sleep under the misting of rain. The candles had gone out with the first spritzing, but their scent was still wafting around me. As I lay there in that in between place….that place between sleep and awake…I could feel the things I had set into motion. I could feel the heartbeat of healing. I could feel that heartbeat of hope.
My grandma had always taught me not to be afraid of the dark. To her, the darkness brought wonder….it was in darkness that the fireflies came out….it was in darkness that the moon and the stars shone the brightest. She always taught me that darkness should never be feared, but instead, embraced like an old friend. Darkness isn’t for hiding…it is for showing the light more strongly.
**A special ‘thank you’ to my dear friend Jason Williams. The beautiful photo of the stars above was created by him. He has an incredible talent!