Trees, oh Trees! Do you remember me?
Trees, oh Trees! Do you remember me… from before?
Birds, oh Birds! Can you still recall my songs?
It was something I mentioned while talking to Sarah. The brashness of youth meeting a complete lack of context. My self-induction into magic was, with the benefit of two decades of hindsight… rude.
There is this modern, self-important assumption that you can just call yourself or other things whatever you want. It is probably a big part of the laggard resistance to the new magical renaissance, particularly among older folk who have decades of sunk cost in happy-clappy 70s ‘we all come from the goddess’ jibber jabber they’re unwilling to abandon. ‘Witch’, ‘spirit’, ‘Baphomet’… these terms need some semantic rigidity or they lose all shape and you end up just play-acting. Wheeeee! Today I’m a witch. Tomorrow I’m a firetruck. Vroom vroom.
I did this. A book I read told me I could and so I did. I called Australian land spirits by allegedly Celtic names. I say allegedly because many of you will remember the quality of scholarship in ‘certain metaphysical paperbacks’ in the 80s and early 90s. And if you click the link above, it didn’t go well. I resolved to rebalance that error on this trip.
And so I waddled my post-christmas frame back to the cliff to have a chat.
It was actually Sarah’s advice on the podcast to just introduce yourself and speak to the spirits of… wherever you are that triggered the approach. On the flight over, it occurred to me this is certainly a better option than transposing foreign names and probably a better option than attempting to mangle the names found in local Aboriginal dialects. (It’s unlikely they’ve survived anyway, so ‘effective’ was the Australian colonial effort in these parts.)
So I sit with my offerings and dangle my legs over the edge of the ‘cliff’ -actually more of a very steep hill. (There was no physical danger. Remind me to tell you the story of my friend who fell off the third cliff up the coast, died, and how he communicated with his mother after the fact.)
It begins with my personal modded version of an invocation from Harleianus 5596 that I use in various tombs and stone circles in Europe. Then I call the spirits of the sky, sea, rock and tree as spirits to receive my greetings and offerings… and it worked a treat. Three crows landed behind me and started chatting (my mother’s crows?), ants crawled over my legs, the wind whipped up the smell of salt from down below and they were just there.
Because, as you know, I am an inveterate meddler, I also had some ulterior experimentation I wanted to work through: when it comes to the Four Kings, is directionality uniform and pre-eminent? Yes, I’ve managed to get those dogs to hunt in New York but:
- It’s still in the Northern Hemisphere.
- It’s shot-through with European magic, anyway… particularly downtown where you can still discern the bones of New Amsterdam.
And the answer is yes, it works, mostly… probably. The sun still rises in the east and I’m pretty sure Jake Stratton-Kent is correct that Oriens originated as a solar deity and the sun still rises in the east here. So if you start there you sort of ‘hang’ the remaining three Kings around that then the invocation works. I can’t definitively rule it in and out because, as you can probably see, it was super hot that day and the sun was hanging over the ocean right in my eyeline. Richard Dawkins could invoke Oriens in these conditions.
But I’m glad it worked because I was terrified it would end up with that absurd upside-down/RandMcNally process that has been applied to Elemental Directions… which aren’t even a thing, anyway. I’m also glad because it gave me common ground for communication. I had land spirits, patrons and allies all in the same space. Which meant we could chat:
This visit is actually only my third trip back in seven years. And the last two trips, my spirit work has felt more ‘English magic on tour’. It’s a bigger personal deal than I am effectively communicating that I can get these two plates to spin at the one time in the one setting. The next step will be to see if I can get the local spirits to hear me from London. I’m quietly confident as –mentioned in my discussion with MMTP– this is how/why I do sacred travel in the first place.
I base this solely on a single book by an admittedly-extremely-talented-author, Tim Winton, but it feels like Australia is taking tentative, important steps to reposition cultural identity around landscape rather than simply climate… and in sensitive, non-appropriative ways.
Which is very pleasing in the end. I’m sure the place spirits will agree it’s good to be remembered.