Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Three Gifts and a Lesson—The First of the Great Dreams (Woo)

[Please remember my disclaimers and rules (linked here) if you'd like to engage this post here or in any of my social media spaces.]  

I am a heathen witchcrafty heretic pagan, and I work with The Morrigan, an Irish goddess of war, death, prophecy, and magic. This is my story of being called by Her (and eventually our work together).

You can go back to the last part here

Or you can go all the way back to where the journey begins in the link here

July 2020 was well under way, and I was actively trying to explore what magic could do, could not do, and how it was going to fit into my life. I was still a skeptic trying to fit it into a rational-sounding box. But that was becoming more and more unconvincing.

I was delving deep into "magic" as a function of focused willpower and concentration—more a series of brain "hacks" designed to focus the unconscious than something "supernatural." I didn't need to worry about what was "true" in the claims about why magic worked, because I was putting a lot more energy towards what it could actually do. The unconscious can make connections the conscious mind doesn't, see opportunities it misses, and help guide behavior. We are constantly synthesizing a deluge of complex information and only ever actively thinking about a fraction of it, so by "steering" the unconscious towards a goal, one could change their mundane experience of reality. I didn't care if that was because the universe was sentient and we could get its attention, because there was a supernatural power could be tapped by people who owned a lot of candles and crystals, or if it was the power of our attention and focus used in a constellation of oft-misunderstood techniques that science already acknowledges.

I was beginning to come to the conclusion that trappings of magic—anything from an altar to spells to crystals to wands to candles—served as remembrancers, foci, and zeitgebers. An essential oil might not itself physiologically help a human relax, but if one made it a point to relax every time they smelled it—and it was a pleasant scent all over them—it COULD come to fulfil that function. A wand might not have any actual ability over a random bit of wood, but when infused with symbolic meaning to a person—much like, say, a flag or a uniform is so much more than mere cloth—it could represent much more. As creatures of habit, ritual, routine, and rote, we could surround ourselves in meaningful symbols, give significance to emblems, engage in purposeful visualizations, and repeat our desires in a way that would help us keep our concentration. This would steer our unconscious minds to adjust some of our "autopilot" functions towards outcomes we wanted to see. People might try to explain their magical tools with pseudoscientific terms like harmonic resonances, energy fields, or whatever, but those basically worked as props and landscape in deepening self-hypnosis.

It was all very neat and tidy, and fit cleanly into my understanding of science and human psychology. I could almost forget the things I had been going through that weren't quite so easy to explain away, like my anxiety symptoms shutting off or the fact that I could feel people before I could see or hear them. 

And life was about to get even more messy.

Of course, there were the dreams. Almost every night I would dream about a black-clad woman (or a trio of them or a quintet or sometimes more) who would cryptically enjoin me to know who she was (who they were) or tell me I was "spilling out everywhere" if she (they) said anything else at all. I had no idea what any of that meant or who she was or why she was in my dreams night after night.

It wasn't just my dreams that were going bananapants. In my waking life, I had begun to feel like something was ineluctably following me. I had the distinct sensation of being watched and of a presence in my peripheral vision. Always it was just a shadow or just a weird tree or bush when I turned and looked, but it was becoming more and more frequent. And I know what I'm about to describe is a very subjective feeling, and I'm labeling it through the lens of two years of revisionist interpretation, but it fits. And it fit at the time even though I didn't really think about it in these terms.

I felt like I was being hunted.

There was one other thing happening, but unlike the dreams and the weird feelings, I didn't realize the significance of it at the time, and maybe I'm remembering it inaccurately. It barely pinged my radar, and certainly didn't do so as something extramundane. I was seeing a lot of crows. Everywhere I looked there were crows hanging around. Small groups. Big groups. A few small murders even though it wasn't quite the season for it. They seemed particularly bold—waiting until I was very close to fly off, landing close by to cock their heads and stare, or screaming unrelentingly at me from the telephone wires on which they perched. I didn't think much of it until later when I started realizing how important crows were in the iconography of The Morrigan.

There was a lot of dismissing these feelings and events because of the pandemic. I thought maybe I was jumping at shadows and suffering from an overactive imagination. I had read stories about people dreaming intensely because of the stress and isolation. I even thought the crows were just enjoying the fact that there were fewer people out and they…uh…ruled the roost…so to speak.

In mid-July I had a dream. It was the first of many dreams where the woman/women who had been haunting me spoke in words that were less cryptic (though far from straightforward). I was standing on a branch of an enormous tree so large and wide that I could have played a game of doubles tennis on it without ever worrying that I'd fall off. It was only one woman this time, and she wore a black sheath dress with deep slits on either side and a pattern that looked like overlapping feathers, combat boots, and a black jacket with the same pattern. 

"Open," she said, and I could feel her energy. It streamed off her like a crackling power plant. 

"Closed," she said, and her energy tamped up. I could still feel it, but it was like a humming power cable wrapped in insulation. 

"Open," she said. I could feel her again, pouring out energy.

"Closed," she said. I could barely feel her. 

"Now you," she said.

"I don't understand," I said. 

"Close yourself," she said. 

"Close what?" I asked.

"You've been open for weeks, bard," she said. "You're attracting attention. Your magic is powerful. Your theory is sophisticated. But you're making incredibly basic mistakes. You have to learn to close your energy off and close yourself off from all the energy outside of you. You're spilling out and attracting attention. And not everything out there is…benign."

"Wait…don't you usually just tell me to know who you are or something?"

"YOU WILL KNOW ME IN TIME!" she snapped, and for just a moment I could see a deep and timeless power behind those intense eyes. "But right now you need to learn to protect yourself because I won't keep doing it forever."

"I don't understand what to do," I said.

"Imagine a wall between you and the world. Visualize it. Give it your energy and purpose and will. Much like your other spells, it will depend on your visualization, but this one is quick. Easy. Become practiced at it. Make it second nature. You want to be able to protect yourself at a second's notice. Open yourself to be sensitive. Close to go about your mundane life or protect yourself. Open. Closed."

"Okay…" I said.

She took a step towards me. She was fierce and fearsome and terrifying in ways I'd never experienced, but I sensed a tutelary motivation behind her eyes.

"I already know you won't trust your senses. You won't believe what is happening if you can't readily explain it. I've understood your skeptical nature and accepted its…disadvantages. I chose to approach regardless. But I also know that right now, you do what works. And working with me will WORK, bard. I can assure you of that. So let me give you something that will make this a lot easier. Let me give you something that works, and then you can trust me even if you don't understand me. Three gifts. Yours no matter what you decide…

"But I think you'll be back," she finished.

I nodded. Somehow that's all I had in me. The dream had a surreal crispness to it, and I could barely speak for the sense of gravitas around the interaction.

"And stop using yourself as the energy battery for your spells," she said. "That works in a pinch, but why not avail yourself of better means if you have the time? You'll just be exhausted the entire next day. Learn to use other sources."

"What should I use?" I asked.

"In time," she said. "All in time."

And then I woke up.

The next day—and I'm still sensitive to how outlandish this feels…even writing about it two years later…even after all I've seen and experienced—I noticed three things as I went about my day. First, I no longer needed my reading glasses. At all. I could read without them. At the time I was needing +2.50 magnification to make out anything smaller than a title or heading. (In the two years since this event, reading glasses of +1.25 magnification have gone back to being helpful with small font.) In ten years my eyes had only ever slowly gotten worse, but then overnight they improved to the point that I could read without any correction. 

Second, I regained full motion of my left leg. My hip had always popped when I raised it sideways. I could get it up pretty high for a front kick, but never had that sideways range of motion—even back when I did martial arts, I had to let my instructors know that a sidekick off my left side was never going to go higher than my hip, and one off my right side would be limited by how much my left hip had to get involved in the bend. But suddenly I could move it without issue. 

Third, an old injury disappeared. There was a car accident I had been in when I was nineteen or so. I was driving a minivan (full of people, I'm chagrined to say) and I rear-ended another minivan (also full of people—it was terrible). It was probably one of the most mortifying experiences of my life, and it left me with an abdominal injury. The airbag deployed into my torso, and the explosive impact caused me internal bleeding and a life of low-grade chronic pain just below my rib cage, especially after core exertion.

That was gone. 

I've sat around and wondered about this a thousand times since. Every possible rational explanation has crossed my mind. I even wondered if I healed during the pandemic and somehow now my unconscious sort of "let me know about it," but in the WEIRDEST possible way. Maybe it was the placebo effect? Covid? I can't imagine what could make three unrelated things better, but something did. 

The next day I started to practice opening and closing. My "Yoda" friend helped me by telling me that it could involve any kind of protective metaphor that worked for me—energizing a circle, building a wall, putting on a suit of armor—and I quickly settled on Star Trek shields. My love of Star Trek is formative and deep. A quick "shields up," and I could SEE the bubble around me glow with activation and fade into transparency. Soon I realized that when I was "closed"—or when my "shields" were "up"—I could handle the world and crowds and go shopping and deal with people again. Open, and I would be sensitive to energies around me and people's "vibes" and could kind of be in tune with the ebbs and flows of magic. 

I had the ability to live a pragmatic life again, even as I explored further whatever the hell was happening to me and what new worlds I was finding the edges of. She'd taught me how to do the most basic magical protection so that I could live life again. 

There would be more dreams. (So many more dreams!) And more experiences. And eventually I would learn what was haunting me…and hunting me. But that was to come as summer wound into fall and will be another post…


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