(Dedicated to Isaac Bonewits.)
I dreamed last night I was writing, and it turned out to be Samhain, and there was a ritual going on in the next building over, and I was thinking of words to write to you, and someone’s chanting broke into my thoughts, and without even opening my eyes, I said, in the old style, “Avaunt!” And I opened my eyes, realized I had caught the arm of someone unsuspecting, that no-one had accosted me,that I had, without thinking about it, wandered into the ritual to disrupt it, and first I felt shame, and then I thought: “Why did they call me here while I dreamt, only to banish me?”
And then I woke into the other world, this world, and I wrote to you. I don’t know why. It seemed important to write it down.
I’ve done a lot of Magick, been part of a lot of ritual. Sometimes, people deride it as “New Age”, or as some kind of watered-down, fluffier version of “real” magic. Those people are sometimes arrogant; but they’re not wrong.
People go so far out of their way not to be portrayed as villains these days; modern witches will work so very hard not to be associated with anything from The Scottish Play. So many places I go, they start by “banishing negativity”, and though I might have come as a guest, my skin crawls and my ire rises and I push out with the tendrils of my angry astral forma gainst the well-meaning groupthink, the kindly-intended leprous spellcraft which patters against my mental shielding and innocently asks to be let in so that it can excise the parts of my mind that are “wrong”.
And I want to show them what negativity would be like, I want to rip down their thoughts as if they were paper in the path of a whirling haze of bonescrapers and bloody scissors, shatter their ritual, explain to them that not every dark thing is broken, and that not every howling soul needs to be muzzled; but instead I just walk out into the night, often forgetting my coat, catching cold wind in my throat and involuntary shivers in my arms, and I think, “Let them have their spaces as they would.”
Or so I did, ten years ago, when last it happened to me. Because I didn’t know then what I know now:
The most simple, the most starry-eyed, the most well-meaning idiots cast circles of their little candle-flickers of Magick, and they think that they are wiser than those who don’t touch the Old Energies. They think that they are bringing a little light into the world; but we who cast shadows know: a little light is a beacon in darkness, but a tidal wave of light is a destructive force, just as a drink of water is healing and a tsunami wrecks a city. Their eerie cascade of eye-blistering glow doesn’t bring something better. It just drowns and washes out the rest of the world in the insipid sameness of bright, cheery, glowing migraine.
And if I gather Darkness to me, it’s not like the movies; I’m not summoning demons or taking over legions of the Undead or gaining powers through the deaths of fragile, helpless things.
I’m just embracing what they’ve shrugged off, wearing (in place of my forgotten coat) their discards, their untreasured leavings, their castaway cloaks.
I do not come as a prophet of the Other Gods; but I come to speak on their behalf, those not-lost beings who wait to be invited to our fire, but are scorned as demons. They are strange and not pleasing to the eyes and senses, and so we try to keep them away from our lives. And it’s all because they’re ugly, because their stories are not convenient; it doesn’t matter that, at one time, they raised us up, and sheltered us and no more represented “evil” than scythes represented “death”. The scythe was a tool, it was efficient for cutting wheat; but it was too good at its job, and felled stalks of the harvest provided a convenient metaphor. Now we can’t see the things without thinking of the way a few medieval artists chose to portray Death.
(And when did Death become our mortal enemy? When did the ending of life become an automatic evil? Don’t some of them want to rest someday? Do we think we can reject the cycles of life with merry singing and never need grave dust?)
I speak for some of the Other Gods. Not always eloquently, not always well, and not for all of them. But when some of those around me lose the lessons of the past, willingly thrust away part of our heritage because they don’t like the way parts of the Living World make us uncomfortable, I let the discomfort settle into my bones, give a home to entropy in my marrow, and I open my mouth and I speak unpleasant rhymes. And if they kick me out of their little circles of flickering power, is it any wonder if I take a few of their souls with me?
If they were truly in touch with what they were doing, they’d notice their souls were gone. I swallow them, like an old shaman drinking bitter root, and with tornfeather wings, I fly to perch on your shoulder, and with a crow’s ragged throat, I give the Strange Things voice.
Strange Gods, I have not forgotten you. Let us walk this Earth together, and see what might benefit from the breath of Change.
Here’s my new book, “Villains, Villainy, and Villainpunk: Monstrous Microfiction”.
Here’s my first novel, “There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN“.