I studied in Edinburgh, Scotland, the so-called “Athens of the North”, also known as “Auld Reekie”. It is thought to be one of the most haunted cities in Europe. Perhaps. I generally find spirits wherever I go, so statistically my “hit rate” is a tad skewed.
In my first year at university I got involved with an older man. He had a face like a badger that had been shot against a brick wall. Sometimes he wore a beard. Sometimes he wore a kilt. Sometimes he wore fishnet stockings and evening gloves. But that’s another story. Before becoming a mature student he had worked as a ranger in the Highlands of Scotland. His best friend was a medium, an electrician, who went around his clients’ houses “releasing” trapped spirits while fixing the wiring. We’ll call my ex-boyfriend, Gordie.
Gordie lived in a fairly new block of student flats bordering on The Meadows region of Edinburgh. In the previous century (the 19th) this had been an old mill. As all mills around that time, conditions were dire and on-the-job fatalities were common. Gordie’s room was at the back of the block, on the ground floor. It was “L”-shaped, where the lower part of the “L” formed the entrance hallway and the longer part was the room itself. The room was messy. Black clothes lay on the floor amidst crumpled, semen-stained underwear. A fug hung in the room. It was male. Shrek meets Hugh Hefner. And in case you’re wondering, yes, at that stage (and for many years afterwards) I had stunningly low standards for the men I slept with!
I had been warned by the spirits to not get involved with him. In my late teens and early twenties, I was a keen bibliomancer, and I was very good at it (not so much these days). I had received information that had predicted the future accurately. I had also engaged with a mischievous spirit who claimed to be my brother, but he was a piss artist. He did however tell me some amazingly precise predictions. Anyway, I was wanting to show off one evening, so I grabbed a book and started “a conversation”. “The book” clearly described Gordie to a “T”, including mentioning the fact that he was sitting right next to me … just so there was no mistake who they meant. I was then told to leave him alone, that he “belonged” to a particular group of spirits and I wasn’t to get involved. I had been sharing this conversation with Gordie. He freaked. I felt embarrassed and played it down but over the next year it did pan out badly for me. However, my relationship mishaps are not relevant or interesting.
So eventually I started staying over at Gordie’s place. We slept on mattresses on the floor. I slept level with the hallway part of the room (also the darkest corner … it was a liminal space, a passing-through space – architecturally it was just awkward). Things were fine at first. Nothing to report here, gov’ner. But then the chills started. Later in life I realised that the main way that I sense spirits is on my skin. It’s a chill, sometimes down my back, or on my arms, or on the crown of my head. The first chills began as I lay there one night trying to sleep. The crown of my head began to chill, until it was very painful. The rest of me was warm so it was unusual. I wondered if there was a draft. I ignored it and eventually fell asleep.
I was young and inexperienced. These days I would know straightaway that something was up. My internal sensor recognises the Strange. My entire body is primed like a taught wire to vibrate in the presence of spirits. But not then. The chills continued at night, and I ignored them. Then during the day, (Gordie was at a lecture) I walked into the room and was rooted to the spot in that liminal hallway. It was like I had expected the room to be empty, and it wasn’t … I was used to seeing the Strange with my forehead and hearing it from the space at the back of my head. I tuned into these other sensory faculties and sent out a big question mark. What are you? I sensed and saw a young woman. She was wearing dark, long 19th century working clothes, with a grubby white apron. She looked miserable, and everything that came from her was resentful and unhappy. Then she was gone.
Next time that the chills came, I knew it was her. I spoke to her in my head, firmly. “Leave me alone. I’m trying to sleep!” I have found that speaking directly and decisively to spirits gets a response. If they are resistant, I remind them that I am alive, and this is the living world, ergo they are a visitor to MY world and I have the stronger presence and power. This works.
But she never went permanently, and I felt disturbed by her unhappiness. I told Gordie about her and he was not as comfortable as I was with her presence. He began to blame all sorts of his own neurotic behaviour and emotions on her. He wanted her gone. He said he was going to contact his medium friend and ask his advice. I said that I could sort it. Gordie went off to find a phone box (that’s right children, no mobile phones back then!) and I sat down and “listened” to what the ghost girl wanted. I wrote it down: a red candle, a piece of yellow cloth, incense (something flowery). Gordie returned. “Right!” he said. “I spoke to my mate and he said we need a yellow scarf, a red candle and some lavender incense.” Well hey-ho. Even I was quite impressed with myself. So I went shopping and while Gordie was out I went to work in the room. I shifted all that funky maleness out and I “worked” for the ghost-girl. And she went.
Not long afterwards, Gordie and I moved out into a basement flat that was part of a large old house, surrounded by a small garden. One fond memory is that Gordie taught me to call Robins to my hand where they would feed on cheese, fluttering over my fingers.
It was a damp and cold basement flat. In fact it was so damp that I found a frog in my bed one day! The heating was old. Basically they were metal boxes attached to the wall with bricks inside. You’d turn the heating on (gas-fired) and the fire would heat up the bricks. It cost a fortune because it was so ineffective, so we did without heating most of the time.
My spider senses had begun to pick up on stuff again in this new place. I kept seeing a cat, or having thoughts about “my cat” even though I didn’t have one. And I saw flashes of a couple in their late 50s/early 60s. They just stood there together and watched. They were not sad like the ghost-girl, nor were they malevolent. They were just curious.
One day I was sitting in the living room, freezing my arse off, trying to study. Then suddenly the chills started up and down my back. I “looked” with my forehead and saw the couple standing behind me. I lost it. “For fuck’s sake! It’s fucking cold enough in this place without you going all woo-woo-wah-wah on my ass. Cut that shit out!” And they stopped. Like I said, if you are firm and clear, the spirits listen. They stayed as a presence in the house, and I remained on “hello” terms with them. Unlike Gordie’s medium friend I don’t find it necessary to “move on” every spirit I encounter. I find that is a busybody attitude and some things are just not my business!
As an aside, the floor above us was an empty flat and yet at night we would hear the sound of a child running back and forth across the floor (our ceiling).
So those were the *human* spirits I encountered in Edinburgh. Stay tuned folks for the spirits of the extinct Scottish volcano and how Gordie was spurned by spirits for his disrespectful attitude; a lesson to us all.
When The Tower appears in your Tarot spread expect the fall of old structures; things that you have contributed towards creating but which are no longer relevant in your life. As the structures crumble, it may be painful, you might get hit on the head by the odd brick or two. But ultimately for new edifices to be built, the ground must be razed and that takes effort as well as the commitment to letting go of the old in order to embrace the new.
Recently I have been mulling over friendships and relationships. Some have died a death and I don’t know why. I have also received contact from a couple of old “friends” and I wonder if I should pursue the friendships again after all these years. Yet, on the other hand, there is only so often you can write to a “friend” before you accept their continued lack of reply as the “Fuck you” they obviously intend it to be. Some people seem to be very laissez-faire about friendships; they throw themselves into it wholeheartedly like a kid with a new toy, only to get bored after a year or two when they decide you’re too much effort and move on.
I’m not perfect. I carry my own demons and issues that create challenges in relationships and friendships. I am phone-phobic … I hate to use the phone as all my friends know, so we work around that by texting, emailing and Skyping. Sometimes I can withdraw into myself because of my depression, but again, friends know that these are the times when I need them to reach out to me even more and pull me back into the land of the living. Just as they know my foibles, I know theirs. It becomes a mutual dance around our vulnerabilities, allowing each other just to be.
But paranoia is an ugly beast and some people misinterpret things and run with it. Suddenly there is bitching behind your back and you find that mutual “friends” have listened to the lazy bitching and have unfriended or blocked you on those dumb social networking sites. Again, the cowardly “Fuck you”… I hear it.
Others’ lives change and I become no longer useful to them. They marry and have children and suddenly I don’t “fit” their lifestyle as a single, non-conservative woman who doesn’t go dappy over babies, so I’m dropped. Or they marry into money and I am too poor and bedraggled to fit into their glamourous lifestyle, so I’m dropped. Or their fad for all things pagan, which made me so useful at one time, is passé so again I’m dropped.
I’m just really feeling it at the moment and I’m angry. I’m angry because people think they can pick me up and drop me whenever it suits them. I’m angry because people don’t care enough to say “Hey, I’ve been hurt, let’s talk …” and instead resort to bitching and turning others against me rather than having an adult conversation between them and me. And I’m fed up of always being the one to reach out and reassure, of not having emails answered or having someone really ask about me. I’ve had conversations with so-called friends where the entire time is spent with them wittering on about themselves and their lives without me hardly saying a word about myself … do they notice? Do they care?
The fact is that I just don’t have the energy to keep restarting friendships that are obviously dead engines. If you don’t want to be my friend, fine – fuck off. Seriously. Unfriend me. Disappear. Have a nice life. Because there ARE people in my life who are worth my time and don’t treat me like a timeshare holiday or Yuletide toy. Oh, and don’t forget to unsubscribe from my blog as well. I’d rather you didn’t clutter my statistics.
A line has to be drawn in the sand. I know who my friends are because they keep a dialogue going. Friends remember my birthday because they know it’s a tough day for me (and by the way, I had a great birthday recently, thanks to the effort and engagement of dear friends who cared – to them I say a huge thank you and I love you).
You may have been a fabulous friend in the past, but somehow I fell out of fashion and you’ve moved on. Time for me to move on too. Thanks for the memories but now I raze the ground and clear away the scrub to build a new edifice, a temple to lasting friendships and relationships – ones that I can rely on.
Whoremoans [sic]… Yesterday was a day when things flipped on the edge of a coin. Great one minute, in tears the next; everything feeling poignant. Months ago in such a hormonally driven state I cried when I saw a dancing dog. Really? It’s just a dog. But it’s dancing! Sob!
The brilliant biting sun of yesterday replaced today by clouds and a deeper chill. The ground is still too warm, throwing up crocuses and spring flowers which will all be killed with the first frost. So much death on the horizon – winter creeping up and taking us by surprise. The reasoning mind noting the excess of berries on the tree; people drawing on old folklore about heavy berry harvests meaning a harsh winter. Geese flying in Vs, unsure which direction they should head in. Robins happy but not looking fat enough to survive, as the instinct to overeat and build a fat reserve is inhibited by the plethora of insects still buzzing on warm days … even the odd wasp and bee. Bees should be sleeping deeply and dreaming of flowers by now.
I sat in the garden yesterday writing A Plan, saw Other (the local stray cat – named Other by me and my neighbour as he is the “other cat” who doesn’t belong round here). I called to him. The look of recognition and joy touched me as he scampered down the wall and pegged it down the long garden to see me (good job he didn’t start dancing). Normally he is such a reticent cat. Our first moment of contact was during a session of yoga in the garden. I settled into lotus for meditation and when I opened my eyes there he was sitting in front of me just staring – from awareness of Self to Other. That was the first time he let me touch him. Since then he can be approached cautiously. The last time his lip caught on a fang and I saw the beautiful skull underneath his black and white fur: “When you die, will you rot in my garden? Will you? Hmm? Will you? Purrrr. Do that for me!”
I’m in skull withdrawal and the paltry offerings of commercial Halloween do nothing to satiate my need for bone or decorative skullwork. Samhain fast approaching. Some acquaintances off doing their own thing – apparently I’m too “dark” for them. I think they are right. I have something else planned with Others: part of three days of ritual – one day for me, one day for a man I care deeply about, one for me and my friends. And so my own awareness expands from Self to Other.
Last night I finally finished Leonora Carrington’s book, Down Below. This is the problem with reading 20+ books at the same time, I am a water-book-boatman, skimming over the waters, drawing lines between ideas and reading deeper meanings into connections between multiple sources. I believe each moment to be an opportunity to experience a greater lesson than just the words on one piece of paper or the words from one person’s mouth. Rarely do I dive into just a single book, but that too is a refreshing and different lesson, necessary at times.
Her final words describe how she slipped from madness to lucidity through the words of a “reasonable man”. The world in which she had guided the planets and seen the true nature (or warped nature) of those around her dissipated like mist on the river. “He ‘deoccultized’ the mystery with which I was surrounded…” She realised that medication was just medication not a form of hypnotism, and that her obsessions with one man (who patently took advantage of her vulnerable state) could be broken by having sex with another.
All in all a most unsatisfactory ending; but such are endings in life. Encounters, situations and people are rarely cut clean and tied up with a nice bow. It’s a blood and guts affair that hurts, but with awareness it is a pain of purging not festering.
An awareness of Self and an awareness of Other – at times an inseparable dance or a balderdashing bashing of heads. But My time is currently one not of moulding Myself to anOther’s needs and feelings but of re-creating My sense of Self and Being. If Other fits My “occult” world, it may stay; if not, it may be deoccultized, as I continue to defy that thing called a “reasoning and reasonable mind”.