Blood and Bones and Ancestors

I was raised with aunts and cousins and grandparents living together under one roof. I was raised to be my brother and sister’s keeper. I was raised with a fierce knowledge that there is no bond more relentless than the bond of blood.

At holidays we would gather on chairs and couches and retell the same stories of hardship and hilarity, of the living and of the dead. We would remember their names, looking at photographs and home movies. At the time I didn’t realize it, but now I know that by remembering and celebrating we were venerating. We were keeping alive an ancient tradition that this new world has forgotten.

But I will not forget.

Modernity has forced us into isolation; many of us live without family in our homes. We’ve replaced the familial and ancestral bonds with technological conveniences, the wisdom of our elders has been usurped by the collective humming of the internet. In the past your family meant your survival or your destruction and the bonds you forged with them and the work of those who came before you were fundamental to your success.

In times of old we could turn to the wax masks of the ancients hung in our homes, we could look to their graves and tombs. Now we must seek them out on our own, devising both new and forgotten paths to the dead through bones, and blood, and shadow. Chanting, singing, dancing, screaming into darkness, beyond hedges, and through veils, I reach out to my ancestors, to my family, to the dead. I beat at my chest and stomp my feet not in mourning, but in celebration, for the dead speak and they have many secrets to tell.

When I die, burn my body and release my spirit so that I may fly across worlds on shadowy wings. Mix my ashes with the dirt and mud. When my children’s children dig through the earth and call for me, I will hear them and I will whisper to them. I will sing them twisted songs of curses and cures and I will not be forgotten.

Of Snakes and Journeys

A year ago I began down a path through otherworlds and underworlds, where visions flowed like water from a tap. I met gods and spirits and came to know my disir, my ancestral and  family spirits, who guided my journey as a wolf, shark, and snake. It was so natural and fluid that when the tap dried, I was at a total loss. Trance states became difficult, almost impossible to enter and the visions I received were clouded by the mundane and murky. My disir reached for me but I struggled to reach back. Hecate pointed a gnarled finger and named me lazy. What could I do?

Then one of the witches in my circle, more wise in the ways of Hecate than myself, suggested I stop trying to journey, she urged me to focus on the mediation, not the vision. Bah! What is the meditation if not a means to journey? Why breathe and chant and ground and cleanse if not for visions? I was frustrated and disappointed, I thought I was simply not talented.

I let my friend’s words take root and germinate for a few days before I conceded to myself that perhaps she was correct.

So I chanted and lit my sage, cleansing and clearing my space. I grounded and centered before me, besides, me, behind me, besides me, above me, below me, within me, and around me. I went back to the basics and focused on my breathing, I focused on the rhythm of my lungs and heart and let that be my drum beat. When the room around me slipped away and Yggdrasil called, I had finally let go of my arrogance.

The great ashen tree lead me to a place of fire where a snake was waiting for me, my disir called Cilia. In my hands she poured henbane seeds, so I sung to them and they grew and flowered. I ate the flowers and through their poison I saw stars fall to earth and the cosmos stretch into infinity.

Hygeia by Gustav Klimt

Hygeia by Gustav Klimt

While I journeyed through chaotic plains, my friend and fellow witch at Crescent Over the Crossroad was also speaking to a snake. Her great python is wise and had words for all vision seekers, oracles and seers alike.

Oracle work is not a tap to turn on when you wish or to turn off when you choose.”

You cannot take small bites of the visions,
you will choke.
You must swallow them whole.”

The otherworld is not a tap we may turn on and off at our own whim. The worlds do not flow for us, but through us.