… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Hedgeriders

The ghosts of Auld Reekie

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.

©StarofSeshat 2016

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Communing with nature spirits … how it all began with me and how you can start too!

I was going to write a small series of articles teaching you (that is, anyone who cares to know) about how to connect with nature spirits. But I felt very uncomfortable with the “teacher” role and there were too many caveats because each person is different and your clairvoyant strengths may not be mine. I’m good at taking an individual by the hand and introducing them to nature and low magick, but I’m pants at attempting to be one of the many pagan gurus online. My blog, right from the start, was about me and my big mouth, just mouthing off about stuff that was important to me, what I did and do, etc. So, instead of trying to convey a universal truth (a what?!), I’m just going to grab a coffee, sit down and share with ye a little about what I’ve experienced. If you want to know more or have questions, please post them in the comments below.

I’ve had experiences with spirits since I was a child (ghosts, astral travelling, spirit guides, etc.). In my teen years I began to delve into Dianic witchcraft and nature witchcraft. As I meditated more, using visualisation of various symbols from ankh to the all-seeing eye, more things began to open up to me. That is one thing that I would encourage anyone to do: develop a daily meditation practice. I find that my ability to sense spirits grows in proportion to the degree of inner quiet I can sustain. If my mind is chattering about mundane rubbish, I remain distracted very often from the things right under my nose. I remember that as a young child I would sing to chase spirits away that scared me; I would focus so hard on the words and the tune of the song and sing it with every fibre of my being (“She’ll be coming ‘round the mountain” was my favourite). This distraction process created a kind of barrier between me and these parasitic spirits which closed down my “openness” and protected me.

As I worked at little rituals in my room, I also developed a practice of moon-gazing. Late at night I would slip out of the house and walk a couple of miles down an unlit road into the countryside. I clambered over styles, heading off into the fields until I was at the closest, darkest spot, right in the middle of a wheat field. I would crouch there amongst the wheat and gaze at the moon as it crested the hill. On top of the hill was a Bronze Age fort (now a clearing surrounded by Beech trees).

For months I would escape around the full and new moons to sit in the fields and listen. The only things I could really see were the black of black shadows against a black land, and above, the blinding brilliance of the moon. So my other senses took over. I heard small animals bustling around, the sound of cows chomping grass in the neighbouring field, owls screeching and the wind through the trees and grasses. I smelt the earth, a conglomeration of death and decay that smelled pungent and dark. I pressed my fingers into the dirt and stared up.

Then, after a few months, the call came. This call was to be repeated throughout my life at different times, from different landscapes, in all kinds of weather. The land called me. As I sat at home, tired and totally averse to going out, the land called me and all I could think about was being out there! It’s difficult to explain the compulsion that accompanies the call. It’s like the craving that someone gets for a cigarette when they are giving up; it’s the obsession over cake when you’ve given up all carbs; it’s an all-encompassing, physical and mental NEED for a drug, and if you don’t get it, your nerves will implode, your arteries will explode, your mind will shatter.

So I left the house, and ran down the road, off into the darkness and to the field; it was the hill that was calling me, so on I strode, up hill, through fields and orchards, over styles, past streams. It’s about 4 or 5 miles from my family house to the top of the hill. Bear in mind as well, that when the call comes, I could stride through the worst part of town and never be scared. The call overtakes any sense of fear or anxiety. So I walked through the night with absolutely no qualms about being hurt by man or beast.

At the top of the hill (which is shaped like a sleeping lion), on its rump, was the fort clearing surrounded by trees. I had been up to the hill a few times before in the daytime. I went to a jagged tree that was about three times my height but slashed black down the middle – dead, struck by lightning. I shinned my way into the cradle of the tree where it had broken apart and sat there cross-legged looking over the clearing. And that’s when I saw the spirits: black shapes, drifting back and forth, not walking but floating and sometimes flying through the air. When I see them, I see them through my forehead; when I hear them, I hear them with the back of my head. That’s the only way I can explain it. They were aware of me. I was permitted to be there. It is vital to have permission to be in such places at such times. I will tell you further stories about what can happen if you don’t.

These were human spirits (perhaps belonging originally to the Bronze Age fort), but the spirit that had called me was that of the hill. I had focused on it, spoken to it and cultivated a relationship with it in my mind, out of respect, during my moon gazing jaunts. I had opened my palms to it and greeted it – spirit to spirit – and asked permission to dwell there. Sometimes I got a great sense of “No!”; this would be accompanied by a growing feeling of unease and danger. When that happened I would turn around and head home, even if I had only just arrived. Through this method of communication, I had built a relationship of respect and trust with the land and hill spirits.

So, I guess the key aspects that led to my time amongst the Bronze Age fort spirits were meditation (being able to quieten my inner chatter), acknowledging the land spirits (whether you directly feel them or not to start with), trusting your gut (if you feel unnerved, go; if you feel safe and relaxed, stay), being part of the place you wish to communicate with (I knelt on the ground, put my hands in the earth, filled my nostrils with earthy night-air, I absorbed everything around me through my senses). And I did all of this on a regular basis, expecting nothing in return except the joy of being WITH the spirits, sharing that liminal space with them. It never occurred to me at the time to involve those spirits in spellwork. For me it was the only time I felt “normal” and that was enough for me.

Next time: The spirit of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland, plus a dead mill-working girl, and why I’m generally not fond of the human dead.

©StarofSeshat 2016


The insider and the out-outsider

Once again my mind returns to thoughts of the individual and her/his relationship to community. I blame my university background in social anthropology.

Tomorrow I am going to a fetish market and the fetish party thereafter. Yes, whips, chains, spankings, dungeon equipment and all. The last time I attended I had a wardrobe malfunction just before leaving, and so opted for the most comfortable and smartest outfit I had. Unfortunately the outfit was totally unsuitable for a fetish venue: unless you are wearing rubber corsets, PVC outfits, Steampunk or transgender clothing, the acceptable alternative is black. How ironic that I virtually always wear black but ended up choosing a psychedelic mixture of patterns and colours instead. As a result I felt out of place and people didn’t know how to pigeon-hole me. I felt like a Sunday school teacher taking a walk through an opium den. Clothes identified people’s proclivities; they identified whether a person was Dom/me or sub. Dom/mes will not talk to submissive people because they might belong to another Master or Mistress, and it is a transgression of unspoken rules to play with somebody else’s submissive.

Years ago I had a social networking account. I was connected with many occult people, mainly of the LHP persuasion. I was new to the path and felt a bit out of my depth although I was making strides in my learning. But I never felt fully a part of the community because I didn’t ever “play” the darker-than-the-darkiest-darkness dude, so black my own mother couldn’t find me in a coal shed shebang. One day I looked at all the status lines:

Hail the chthonic forces!
My soul is travelling the reverse of the tree of life
Hell’s gates open and I embrace the fury!
Today I honour Baron Samedi!
Only those initiated into true gnosis will pass the doors of Death

And my status line?

I’m just about to have a cup of tea and put a chicken in the oven

Sigh. No. Somehow I just wasn’t wearing the right online “uniform”. I remained on the fringes, my hyperbole too soft, too friendly, too this-is-how-I-am. I didn’t wear a mask, and masks were de rigeur!

Groups have rules and etiquette that distinguish them from other groups, otherwise what would make them different? Isn’t it enough to have a different way of thinking, without having to fall into the trap of becoming a fashion clique: got the book, got the T-shirt, got the hand gesture to use on every photo to show that I rock! But humans are base creatures and we find comfort in such binding actions – the “in” vocabulary that leaves all others bewildered, the “in” jokes that no one else understands. Being “in” is so much more preferable as a social primate than being “out”. The outsider has no place in this jungle, she is rogue and looked upon suspiciously. She is the hedge-rider, the traditional witch straddling boundaries between village and … the wild, forbidding “world out there”/the “world beyond life”; she straddles social customs and acts as an intermediary between our so-called civilised, social self and our animal, degenerate self – the latter dragging us down, the former supposedly raising us up.

So even in fringe groups, such as occultists and fetishists, who may define themselves as outsiders because they dwell outside of the mainstream, there is a focus on social integration and rules of belonging … if you transgress them, you are out of the outsiders – a twist on Micky Flanagan’s brilliant skit on going out-out. Suddenly you are the out-outsider.

But if you play by the rules, learn the group language and wear the group mask, then you too can belong! It’s a toss-up between being true to your authentic self and finally bridging that yawning gap of loneliness and isolation. For those who have truly experienced loneliness, what wouldn’t they do to connect and belong?

However, sacrificing your self to the group mores can mean that you lose the outsider edge; you lose the ability to straddle more than one world. You are subsumed within an all-encompassing whole, rather than striding forth on your personal path, however weird or humdrum that may be. Not everybody’s authentic self is eccentric and quirky. Mine is, but that doesn’t make it better or worse than somebody who raises their hands in horror at what I do or don’t do.

The real question is the motivation behind our actions. Are we ACTing or RE-acting? Are we following the herd from a need to belong, or are we driven forward by an internal motivation, a lust for self-manifestation?

So, tomorrow I shall wear the right uniform. I shall behave in a way that people know I am Domme. I shall speak the group language and enjoy a day of belonging. But when I return home, I shall undress, light candles on my altar, pet my rat and continue reading about Pomba Gira. My happy medium is to continue straddling several worlds; to dabble my toes in the “in” puddle, before drying my feet and walking off alone into the woods. I am a hedge-rider, a witch, and I always shall be. I am an outsider, an out-outsider even, and that’s fine by me. The questions I leave you with are: how much of your own behaviour is an action originating from an urge for true manifestation of self, the expression of your unique will? And how much is it a RE-action to a need for belonging, a desire to be “in”, a longing to bridge the loneliness within? Are you straddling the hedge demarcating village life and the wilds? Or are you holding hands with your fellow group members, backs turned to the darkness, eyes firmly shut for fear of looking over your own shoulders?

©StarofSeshat 2012