I remember sitting in a neon-lit classroom learning about high magic. The clean lines of ritual, the careful, structured, ordered, measured way of it. How this could, in the right circumstances, create an elevation of the practitioner to an altered state of consciousness. How these steps, made just so, act as the key to unlock the portal of magical power and connection.
This was, in a way, the practice of my churched life: wear this, prepare thus, stand here, step and turn, read these words, raise this cup, offer this sacrifice, move your arms in this way, bow and bow again.
When I sat in that classroom I was newly out of church and all the described splendour left me feeling exhausted. The bone deep exhaustion of seeking to earn a measure of grace, of nothing ever being “enough”, the tarnish of sin masking any hope of joy.
I will, I think, forever connect this kind of practice with the patriarchal structures which dominated and constrained the first half of my life.
I found an interest in the kind of magic mortals make, those tied to the earth by their work, or inhabiting it fully in their bodies. I think of this as traditionally women’s magic. The magic that is whispered on doorsteps or in the woods under the moon, the magic that is shared in a carefully selected herb, a small muslin pouch of tea. The magic of clean sheets and boiling water when one reaches her time and the child is almost come. The magic of the knife which severs the cord. Or of the silent bathing of the newly dead, and later, the remembering, stories of their life laughed over cups in a quiet kitchen, a litter of kittens on the hearth rug.
Life, death, life again.
This magic is not hard or fast. It works with a cup of water and a pinch of salt, with a wish breathed on frosty air, a huffed-out candle, smoke lingering like incense. It meets us where we are, whether in our kitchens or at our computers.
It is subversive because it can’t be tamed. A wild magic which sings in our skin and beats a tattoo in the cavern of our breast. It is powerful because it belongs to each of us uniquely; no-one can tell you “how” to do it, it is sensuously sweet and potent as poison, the warmth of the sun on stone, the cool clarity of the crescent moon.
This is the magic which thrills me, calls me to create oracles from bottle tops and bones, to read tarot at the dining table with an ancient cat in attendance, asks me to listen to my son when he returns home from work at 11.30pm or recite nonsense verse with my mother as she approaches the end of her life. I weave it with string and stones, with herbs, berries and a purple pen.
My rituals now are creative endeavours cobbled like a patchwork from found objects, poetry, spontaneous dances, stolen moments.
Claim this magic for your own. She has been watching for you all this time, ready to welcome you home. Breathe in and wait just a fraction of a moment and you will feel her, willing you to join in with the cosmic dance of creation, to take your place and name yourself.
Image “Winter” by Cocoparisienne on Pixabay