Not that this is even the slightest bit unusual, but Jack’s recent EI post about locations in magic has got me thinking.
More specifically, it has got me reminiscing.
Reminiscing about one of my first rituals at the tender age of thirteen. It was a (Wiccan-ish) self-initiation my friend and I performed on top of a waterfall in a large national park called Glenrock Lagoon near where I grew up.
And we were most certainly not welcome.
It turns out that one of the things about the near-complete destruction of Australian indigenous cultures (forcibly removing generation after generation of children from their families proved extremely effective) is that you don’t know where you’re “not allowed” to go until it’s way too late and you’re actually there.
Australia is the oldest continent on earth. Australian Aborigines are very possibly the oldest people on earth (seriously, look it up). Their native spirits are positively Lovecraftian in terms of age and -often- malice.
Think of them like bull sharks in murky water -another frightening creature my home country boasts. (In Australia, the only thing sharks are scared of is other sharks.)
Anyway, that was my first experience of ‘location magic’. I cast one of my first ever circles and Cthulu Dundee shows. I went back a few years ago. Still not welcome there. Banned for life means banned for life in this establishment, apparently.
But there might be something behind Jack’s suggestion regarding the formative power of our first places of magic. In my head it’s like relationships: we don’t learn who to love from our parents, we certainly learn how. It’s a psychological imprint.
I didn’t pick the waterfall because it was all spooky and haunted. (My tragic rock/goth/demonology phase came about a year later. We all had one.) I didn’t know it was no-go. I was still labouring under the rookie neopagan delusion that nature was nice. I picked it for expediency’s sake: it’s really isolated. Plus, you have a view over the lagoon and out to sea so, you know… pretty.
I was, however, dimly aware that place is probably important in some way.
Beyond Genius Loci
Place interests me. If you are a new subscriber then you should know that I like it enough to use words like cosmogram and turangawaewae. Too much ‘magical place’ discussion is superficial; binary. Genius loci or nothing. Genius loci are one layer but in cultural studies we learn places -especially postcolonial spaces- are palimpsests… they are layer upon layer of meaning. Some are inherent. Most isn’t. Most meaning is layered on a place in an act of co-created narrative.
And there is so much to be gained from that co-creation. It’s why I love Jack’s clarion call for more mobility in magic… And Jack, obviously.
Like raves in the early nineties, the kitchen seems to be where it’s at for magic at the moment.
This is to be expected.
All magical identities have been inherently satanic -even early Christianity. They stand opposed to and in defiance of dominant worldviews. They spring from orthodoxy into opposition. Cultures create counter-cultures.
For Victorians, this opposition was sexual and racial. Early Wicca was born of the politically conservative pastoral fantasy of the Edwardian era: where villagers were simple yet wise, and clung to ancient ways that had died out elsewhere. (Only cityfolk thought this but they tend to be the ones that write the histories.)
When Wicca ‘Americanized’ in the sixties it shifted from the Right (where it sat in England) to the Left and made feminism and eco-activism its core principles.
How did it go from hairy-legged San Franciscans chanting anti-rape charms into loudhailers on the streets of the red light district to women competing online for the witchiest pie recipe the kitchen?
Because today domestic identity is radicalised… adversarial… satanic even. We have just witnessed the absolute collapse of the corporate superwoman (among other identities) in the global financial crisis.
Wanting domesticity, wanting hearth dominion is now radical. Carrie Bradshaw is dead and buried. (And oh how I rejoice!) Bearing in mind -sorry boys- that the last forty years of Wicca have been defined by notions of female identity, what is happening on a mass-cultural level is impacting the magical world.
We are witnessing a reforming of modern female identity around newly chosen values. (And they’re not traditional values. The fifties housewife was a battered slave. Before that was war, before that was women-as-baby-factories and before that we were pre-industrial so there less defined domestic roles because there was no difference between domestic and industrial. Make no mistake, these are new values.)
Proudly claiming this identity over the abject lie of the ‘career woman who can have it all’ is bold. It is as bold as claiming ‘witch’ as an identity of empowered womanhood was in the sixties. The mass-cultural corollary of this is the current fad for everyone growing their own food and living seasonally. (Stop reading this post right now and read this hilarious piece on the subject. Like the best satire, it cuts pretty deep.)
I like this change, don’t get me wrong. It aligns with my own sufficiency/remote working/regional domesticity fantasy. I will put my hand up and say that I basically want to be Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I own that.
But a kitchen -still my favourite room of the house- has it limits as a sorcerous location.
Continuing the food prep metaphor, cosmic picnics are mandatory. The world is happening out there and as I have said before, wizards should have adventures. There’s just too much to be gained not to.
So cosmic picnics are a must. Just be sure to check for magical ants before you start. As that was literally my first magical mistake I can attest to the fact that those fuckers bite.