Monday, May 13, 2019

Virtuous Pagan

Oh, Young Man…
You Pan
You Priapus
You force of nature
You Beltane fire.
Champion of the Woods,
I see your halo of horns
And you slay me
You claim me
In the forests of your eyes.
Oh, Wild God!
You go like wine to my head
Red stains on the Bacchanal bed
And a heart full of virgin dreams.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Sacred Fire, Holy Well: An Imbolg Ritual with Brigid

This ritual is close to my heart for several reasons. I've had the privilege to be welcomed by a beautiful new community that I've been practicing with since Beltane and, for Imbolg, I have the honor of writing and leading the ritual. This is not arbitrary and leads me to the next reason this is very special for me: The patron of Imbolg is my patron! (Or matron, if you prefer.) The following ritual is recreating, as closely as possible for a group setting, the altered states of consciousness I've experienced with her. It is meant to be a deeply personal experience, though with the community there to support each other through any pain, blockages, breakdowns, breakthroughs, epiphanies, and visions.

I would love to credit the artist; please comment if you know.

Imbolg, celebrated in early February, is the Celtic midwinter/spring festival associated with Brigid. Brigid is maiden, mother, crone. She is smith, healer, poet. She is honored at the sacred flame and holy well. 

This ritual takes its structure from those two pillars of her worship; at each pillar, something is given and something is taken. On either side of the altar are (1) a fire and (2) a pitcher and basin, representing the well. 

At Brigid's Fire, the celebrants burn symbols of or messages about their pain and struggles and return with a candle lit from the fire, representing the strength that comes from tribulation. 

At Brigid's Well, the celebrants take a drink of nourishing milk and offer up something that represents their intentions for serving others. (In the case of the group I practice with, this will be a glass of water from a creek on the property, poured into the basin around the pitcher.)

I've included my outline for the entire process, before and after this part of the ritual, though it can surely be adapted. Some elements are mine, some are traditional, and some were inspired by the Imbolg entry of the Pagan Hours site. The house blessing is based on the tradition of fixing up a bed for Brigid by the hearth. Don't worry; it's a symbolic miniature bed, not a full-sized one!

Opening sacred space
Brigid Invocation
Ritual of Fire and Water
Procession around house
Bardic Circle
House Blessing inside

Brigid of the Sacred Flame
Brigid of the Wishing Well
Brigid of the Holy Hills

Brigid, your hair the golden grass swaying in the breeze.
Brigid, your smile full of faery mischief and mother’s love.
Brigid, your gentle stirrings awakening the world from winter repose.

Brigid, your fiery forge to shape us into tools of change.
Brigid, your tender care to give us hearts that heal.
Brigid, your verse and voice to lead us on the shining path.

Brigid, excellent woman, sudden flame!
Brigid, fair and tender, hue like the cotton-grass;
Brigid, rich-tressed maiden of ringlets of gold!

May Brigid give blessing to the community that is here!
Brigid is come!
(Brigid is welcome!)

Brigid is the goddess of transmutation. She turns pain into beauty. Like a cut that becomes a scar, tougher than it once was. Like a heartbreak that becomes a song, singing to other souls in sorrow, “You are not alone.” Brigid calls us to walk through her cleansing fire, to let it consume our pain, cleanse our hearts, and fill our souls with passion. In every injury there is something to be learned, even if it is simply that fire burns or that you can prevail.
What pain has wounded you in the past year?
What about even older pain that you haven’t released yet?
How can that challenge become an opportunity?
What lesson can be learned; what strength has been earned?
Give your pain to Brigid’s Fire and let her transmute it into strength and beauty.
(time to meditate, throw things in fire, light candle from fire)

Brigid doesn’t just burn our pain, she also soothes the burns once the lesson is learned. Brigid heralds the spring, she is midwife to the new lambs, she is the giver of the milk of life. No matter how old or how independent we may become, all need mothering from time to time. And as we are healed, so can we heal others. As Brigid is midwife for our labors, so can we midwife for others’ rebirth. It is in our commitment to our community that we find our greatest strength. One stick is broken easily but a bundle is not.
What parts of you need nurturing?
What burns need cooling?
What can you do to help heal and serve your community in turn?
Drink from Brigid’s Well that you may be blessed and be a channel for blessings.
(time to meditate, take a drink, give water or token)

Brigid calls us to be ourselves
Our full selves
Our true selves
Our best selves

Brigid is come!
(Brigid is welcome!)

House Blessing:
Brigid, come in! Thy bed is made! Preserve the House for the triple goddess!

Brigid is come!
(Brigid is welcome!)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Shadow Rabbit, Firefly

I had a run in with a rabbit recently. It was the surrounding circumstances which made it a notable encounter. I was enjoying an evening walk when I noticed that I had two shadows. I had one of those split-second moments of disorientation before the rational mind kicks in, saying reasonable things like, "There are two light sources because the sun is down, dumbass, and the artificial lights have gone on." Nevertheless, a mystic takes moments like this to reflect on possible symbolic interpretations. I had just started considering this when a rabbit ran straight across my path. When I looked back down at my shadows, the second was gone! As you might imagine, with my mystic mind engaged, my first thought was wondering whether the rabbit had been my second shadow or had stolen my second shadow. (This is notable in reference to my poem "Hydramanita" which refers to a "shadow rabbit"!) I considered who the rabbit might have been. But this was all conjecture. I walked on to my destination, putting it out of my mind. On my return trip, I noticed a firefly in the same spot where the rabbit had crossed my path! (Fireflies are omens to me.) Just one lonely firefly, sitting in the same spot the rabbit had run to. I approached and its light went out. I waited for what seemed to be an unreasonably long time, but no glow showed. I walked to the spot from which I was fairly certain I had seen it shining and looked directly down. Between my feet, slowly illuminating as if time had been stretched like taffy, there was the firefly. I stood staring in wonder for some time before I snapped out of it "So," I considered, "Perhaps there's something important about this place. I should memorize it." I examined the area, carefully noting in my visual record how far I was from the fence, the tree to the left, the tree to the right... I turned to look across the street and there was the house I'd been looking for! (When my car broke down, the AAA driver who towed my car -and myself- home turned out to live on my street, not far from me! He had described his house and I'd been trying to figure out which one it could be ever since. This one matched the description perfectly.) So, what does all this mean? I have no idea. If you have an idea, leave it in the comments below. For the time being, I'm satisfied with it having been a simple experience of innocent wonder. A sense of wonder is the well-spring of self-less joy.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The New Age Movement's Fatal Failing

Look, I need to address my fellow members of the New Age community. I BEG you to please read and consider the following.
There is a terrible tendency in our community to give people weak platitudes in the face of real adversity. When you tell someone that changing their mind will change their life, that might be perfectly true but, as with everything, "results vary". Most of you are privileged white people, such as myself. When you go on about how you can attract abundance with the power of your mind, you know what you're forgetting? EVERYONE has that power and is constantly doing so, whether or not they realize it. So when you say that to someone suffering under systemic oppression, they're going to spit in your eye and brush it off as bullshit because they have the power of millions of minds and people with material power working against their own mind and minimal material power. The primary failing of contemporary New Age thought is its basis in white privilege. You people need to get on the streets and connect with people who aren't as lucky as you are. Because frankly, it's a disgrace to the ROOTS of the New Age movement to engage in your cheap aphorisms when the New Age movement was rooted in social justice and radicalism. The idea was to CREATE A NEW WORLD and what I see now is people living in their own little worlds, with very little awareness of what's going on around them. ENGAGE with people who don't live or think like you, LEARN from them. And for God's sake, stop shaming people for their mindsets and conditions by telling them they've created their illness, or poverty, or depression, or whatever their struggle is. This is the number one thing preventing the New Age, the New Agers themselves and their nasty attitudes about people they believe just think wrong. It's disgusting. This is why everyone hates you, and why I have largely abandoned the community for chaotes and black magic practitioners, because these people live on the ground level, understand realities, and don't go around judging people from their high horse of privilege.
This is related to the self-indulgence I've seen promoted in the New Age community in the last five years. You know what the path of light is supposed to be about? Sacrifice. So when you post memes that talk about not wasting your energy on people who do nothing in return for you because you have to "cut negative attachments" and "help yourself so you can help others", that's self-serving, it isn't the path of light. Don't call yourself a lightworker if you're only willing to shine in the presence of equal or greater radiance.
 Furthermore, if you were all that powerful and able to "attract abundance" with your mind alone, you wouldn't need to charge and arm and a fucking leg for your services, pricing out the people who REALLY need your services and workshops. ARE, I'm looking at you. You've abandoned the people who really need you and claim you've done it so you can continue the mission you've basically abandoned. Cayce offered free readings to the people who needed them, you charge obscene prices for conferences that aren't even that great. And don't get me started on the outright abuse of your employees. It's a disgrace. This is why I've almost totally disengaged from the ARE. You people are unrepentant and actively discourage young people from involvement because you know we'll CONVICT you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


My friend just last night shared her experience invoking Hecate and "shedding her skin". Today I was transferring some files and came across a trance-writing from an experience I had invoking dark mothers, Kali Ma, Inanna, and Baba Yaga. I've kept this private for almost a year now (12/26/15) but the synchronicity has encouraged me to share. What she shared was even more intimate.

Thinking of skin against skin I cant breathe again is there even a me or am I just a mirror with delusions of individuality the dark mother calls me and I can't even answer because I am empty fill me ma fill me na fill me ya I have no one else to be manaya will be my name and I will build myself from pain. I am a shadow a shadow a shadow empty insubstantial and nonselfforming help me darkness embrace me so I can be a self ma na ya ma na ya ma na ya dark ladies let me share your death bleach my bones and make me ma na ya even this prayer an echo of the face that shattered the mirror I am an emanation of an emanation and there is no truth in me bleach these bones kill the lie everything I never was must die only in nothing did I ever find me but nothings just another shadow. Can I be anything but a shadow? I want to be I want to exude from within I want to be free from the emanation from the reflection I want to be more than a reaction. Ma na ya kill me so I can exist its the only way I know to truly be.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Living Dead Girl

I have a spoopy tale for you, just in time for Halloween. It was inspired by something I heard on the news and promptly forgot, sweet irony. It may have a sequel. Or I may decide I hate it and never look at it again. All characters are fake, blah blah blah, disclaimer, disclaimer, no goats or black cockerels were sacrificed in the making of this short story, etc, etc.
He was panicked, racing down the road too fast, too fast.
She was still, just… too still. 
His blood was hammering like a wasted noise band at a dive show.
Hers was slowly cooling. Slowly. Still. Even her blood was going still. 
He arrived too late and she--- she was gone too early. 
It would be funny, if it weren’t so tragic, so they say. So they say. No, it has to be funny because it’s tragic. But it’s funny you see, because all too recently it was oppositely. She was going too fast. Until she stopped. Suddenly. With a smashing of windows like the gnashing of dragon teeth. He was still, just breathing, living, though the nightmare life-in-death had tossed its dice and he found it ruled his destiny. Then she stopped. Then it was her blood thicked with cold. 
He had left her too early and she found she had arrived at him too late. 
It was funny the way their lives went continuously oppositely, she called it complementary. 
You see, time moved like a school of fish around her, darting past at impossible speed and complexity, and she couldn’t catch up with the whirling currents, lost her feet. He, he moved through time like an ant over a painting. Or maybe time slowed to doff its cap as it approached him. Time was her dervish. Time was his dog. And now, time for both was just a twisted irony.
“I missed you,” she mumbles, snuggling her head into his shoulder, her hands gliding over his skin. He stares. It doesn’t occur to her that her head, her hands, should pass right through him. So they don’t. He knows they should and the cognitive dissonance of this experience is so overwhelming that he just stares in shock.
“What?” she laughs, “I know you were only gone a week but it shouldn’t be that surprising. I lervs you.”
His system is in shut down. “You’re dead,” he states without feeling, like he’s reporting the effect of gravity, a thing too plain to note, let alone state, but stated it had to be. For the record. Records are important. Records are data. And Data is the Tree of Knowledge. He concerns himself with things like this while he watches a cartoon crew and their pirate ship slip down a cloudfall into a bottomless sea of stars. His neurological structures are trying desperately to make him forget she is there. Ah, but look behind the curtain they say we’ve never shown you this trick before. She persistently refuses to forget she is there. So she is. She is there because it is as granted to her as the effect of gravity. She thinks she should be here. So here she is. And all of a sudden her conviction becomes contagious in its innocuous normalcy. And his brain found an easier strategy. Accept. This is normal. It is Wednesday. You are with her. It’s Wednesday. Where else would you be? He forgot she was dead and fell asleep. 
He woke up. He remembered.
  First he remembered the pain.
   Second he remembered her. Why had she been there? He’d left two weeks ago and left her a week ago.
     Third he remembered she was dead.             
       Fourth he remembered that dead people don’t make corporeal house calls so it must have been a dream.
He rolls over to grab his water bottle and finds he can’t move. He’s trapped under a mess of pink skin and brown hair. He realizes the mess is person-shaped. He knows that shape. This is one fucked up dream. And now his mom calls. She asks how he is, you know, considering the accident and-
“I’m having the weirdest dream,” he cuts her off, to her relief. “I can’t tell which parts are dream and which are memory. Are you here to help me remember?” Mom says she’s calling his aunt. The phone goes dead. He expects to wake up. He looks at the messy person. He considers the utterly absurd, ineffable nature of reality. His aunt comes in.
“You’re going to be late for work if you don’t get up.” She says it like a question. She says it like a test.
“I know. I’m trying but I can’t wake up,” he responds, wondering if this is his brain’s interpretation of the alarm clock going off. She leaves, misunderstanding completely and, consequently, satisfied. The messy person moves. She smiles. “Mornin. Did I get you in trouble with your aunt?”
He kisses her forehead. “No”. It occurs to him that’s strange. His late recently-ex girlfriend in his bed, he could believe. But he could not believe his aunt would let a naked woman in his bed go by without commenting upon it in no uncertain terms. This must be a dream. He goes back to sleep.
She’s shaking him. “Wake up already! You sleep like the dead! Come oooon! Wanna plaaaay!” She’s bouncing up and down on him, nipping him occasionally.
“Huhng?” he manages. “I should have woken up already.”
“Damn right you should have! It’s like two o’clock!”
“No. I mean. What are you still doing here?”
“Well damn! I didn’t think it was like that! You sleep at my house until two all the time. I thought I’d repay the favor. Since your aunt is being so uncharacteristically hospitable. Especially because honestly, I’m kind of scared to leave.”
And it clicked. “You are scared to leave aren’t you?”
“Well yeah. I feel super awkward around your family when I know how they feel about me sleeping here. I don’t even know them really.”
“No. I mean. You’re dead. We broke up and then you died. I left town two weeks ago and never saw you again. Your sister called me screaming. You died before I got to the hospital.”
She cocks her head to the side, “Well, I can understand not remembering dying. That’s pretty common, innit? Well, not to say common really but, y’know, not uncommon. Common for ghosts anyway. But I think I’d remember you breaking up with me. That’s bound to be traumatic, kinda leave an impression on a person, like.”
“Yeah. I think that’s the point. I think it was so traumatic that you forgot it. I think that’s why you’re here. You can’t accept what happened.”
“Maybe I’m here because you can’t accept what happened. I mean, if I had a falling out with you and then you died, I’d probably be conjuring you from the other side too. Consciously or otherwise. Wait. Are you saying I’m dead and you didn’t even conjure me here? Didn’t you miss me? Oh yeah, you’re supposed to have dumped me. So I guess you didn’t want me here alive, let alone dead. Der. Forget me own head next. Little dead girl joke for ya there. Oh gods, I didn’t get decapitated did I? That shit gives me the wiggins.”
“No. You didn’t get decapitated.” He couldn’t imagine why that mattered. Dead is dead. He floundered in the cloud of words, “Wait. No. Yes. I missed you. I didn’t conjure you though.”
“Are you suuuuuure?”
“Can anyone be sure of anything?”
“Of course not. Let’s go get waffles.”
“Okay. I’m gonna take a shower.”
He pushes himself out of bed, rubs his face, looks back at her, makes a face, looks like he just heard there’s aliens landing in the backyard, which is the way he looks when socialists lose elections, which is the way he looks when another invaded nation fills with dead children, which is the way he looks when he stares into the abyss, which is the way he looks when he quotes Nihilist Memes, which is the way he looks when he laughs so he doesn’t cry. He takes a deep breath, "Hail Satan" he exhales, and takes a shower, mind-numb. 
She’s reading a book when he comes back. It’s a comic book. She’d rather be reading the leftover textbook. She’s making an awkward attempt to understand him. Not that it matters much now. “You ready?” he asks. They get in the car and drive to the diner.  The server wanders over eventually. “Wh'sup bro? What can I get ya?” He orders eggs and toast, looks over to her as she orders waffles. The server, of course, doesn’t hear her and looks around melodramatically to indicate I got no idea what you starin at man, starts to walk away. He repeats her order to the server who, after a time, brings their food out and sets both plates in front of him. He pushes the waffle across the table.
She raises a single eyebrow. “Okay, no one in the service industry can get away with being that blatantly misogynistic. I really am dead, aren’t I?”
“If you’re dead, how can you eat? Shouldn’t the fork just fall through your whispy little finger-shaped energetic projection?” The fork clatters to the table. Everyone turns to look at the noise. She glares at him. She laughs. He laughs. Everyone continues to stare.
She raises her index finger, “Belief is a tool,” she says in her best socially-awkward- yet-blissfully-unaware-of-it professor voice, then pushes up imaginary glasses. “I posit that if I am an energetic projection and in some way a sort of thought-fold in the space-time continuum, that I’m able to polarize magnetic fields in such a way that either the spoon is attracted through some atomic process or that I’m manipulating my own energetic imprint to be dense enough to affect the organized-energy-that-is-matter around me. Alex would probably say that’s a bunch of bullshit and harsh at me for using Science Words but I don’t give a damn as long as I can believe it long enough to shove this waffle down my imaginary face hole.” It takes a couple tries, but she eventually picks up the fork again. She eats the whole waffle without caring how it’s substance disappears into her insubstantial body. Breakfast for the breakfast gods, she thinks silently, and giggles aloud. When they leave, the server busses the table, notices the guy ate all that food but he never saw him touch the waffle. He never thinks about it again. Ghosts don’t exist, so they certainly don’t eat waffles, so he certainly didn’t see a ghost eating a waffle. That would be absurd. 
They get back to the house and greet his aunt nonchalantly. “You look fat and happy. Where have you been?” his aunt probes.
“We just went and got some breakfast,” motioning behind himself to indicate his late recently-ex girlfriend. His aunt looks despairingly at the empty space. Then, like a hive of inter-phase bees forming a swarm, a familiar young woman flickers into sight.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” his aunt gasps, crossing herself, “God and all his angels preserve us!”
“Um. Hi! You can see me now?” She jumps up and down, “I believed enough for all of us!”
“In the name of Christ Jesus, be gone from the earth, unholy spirit!”
She starts dissolving like a forgotten piece of paper in the wash. She reaches out to the love that had kept her here and screams his name- and she’s gone.

She hasn’t come back. She doesn’t respond to conjuration. He doesn’t wake up to a late-recently-ex-dead-girlfriend-shaped mess of pink flesh and brown bird nest. But once, when he slipped between, he heard her still screaming his name. He doesn’t know the Moirai made her a promise. He doesn’t know they have a rescue planned. He looks for another way. He doesn’t even know the people with the expertise he needs are the very same. They don’t know they need his plan. It would be funny, if it weren’t so tragic. So they say.
The keys click and clack like a schizophrenic clock. If the typing women weren’t so absorbed in their conversation, they might pause to wonder at the evolution of human communication. The way it interacts with time. That the more human technology has beaten time into submission, the more the human psyche submits to the rule of time. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Clock hands are swords, cutting time into smaller and smaller pieces, more and more to be counted and communicated and consumed and commanded by. Right now, the typing women are consumed by a perceived lack of time, and so they think no further on the absurdity of their worry, which flies in the face of their own experiences. When humans panic, they think like humans. Goodbye higher dimensional consciousness. Human bodies have the disconcerting ability to impose human limitations, even on the mind. Their minds have joined in a frenetic, wavering cone of power around one point of focus. An alliance in ashes has even been reborn for the sake of a common promise. Ironically, it would be better to break their promise. But time passes stubbornly linearly for the typing women and they forget to remember from ahead.
“Who thought we three would meet again?”
“Well I’ll be thunder. Who wants to be lightning?”
“Well my face is raining, so that settles that.”
“Wait, this is a thing…”
“What’s a thing?”
“It should be four.”
“When shall we four meet again?”
“No, no, that’s not right… hold on….”
“Again shall meet we four when we open the correct door.”
“Doooood! It’s like from your story. And… and the cups…”
“The cups were in our readings! The three of cups! Okay we’re cups…. Or….”
“Okay, okay. The readings. We all have a piece. We have to put the pieces together.”
“But there’s four cups. But then there’s three cups. But, wait, I’m confused.”
“WE are three cups. Remember what she called us? We’re the Fates, time to… fate… or something.”
“She’s the fourth cup. She has all the pieces.”
“Well, she can’t exactly reach up and hand them to us, can she?”
“No but we can put them back together, umm, together!”
“But she has pieces we don’t know about. You know what they say about occultists…”
“WAIT! She might not be able to reach UP, but part of her can reach DOWN! You know, to the extent direction has any meaning in this situation.”
“What? Y’all STILL haven’t sorted that shit out?!”
“Hey, hey, calm your tits. It’s a work in progress. Oh! It’s a work in progress! That means there’s still… like… an open outlet on her end for… Her to plug into!”
“Okay, well, you know how enigmatic She is. She takes whatever name and shape suits Her at the time and She didn’t even bother to explain what was going on.”
“Yeah, well, you said it yourself, sometimes these things have to unravel naturally.”
“Can you guiz please stop keking and cawing at each other for a minute?”
“Ummm… okay now I don’t know what to say.”
“What sound do stags make?”
“OMG guiz. Focus.”
“Don’t they make some weird mooing noise like mooses?”
“We agreed not to apologize.”
“Yeah well that was before. Maybe SOME apologies are in order.”
“YEAH! Maybe they ARE!”
There is relative silence as images of pouting foxes in crowns and angry crows with shining eyes materialize in the chat window. “You are filled with determination” pops up in a black square, underlined in rainbow hearts.
“You know what she would say right now?” A YouTube link pops up. Rainbow Warrior by CocoRosie.
Several moments of silence pass while they all meditate on the anthem.
“Burning embers hearts united. We remember mystical beauty.”
“Yeah. Things were like that once.”
“Well they better be again or we’re not going to keep our promise. We promised we wouldn’t leave her there and you told me you saw her bound in the lilies, just like in your reading.”
“Ok. We’ve been too… panicked about this. We already know what to do. What we were going to do in the first place. We all told her we’d be there for her when she went back. Well, the only thing that’s changed is that it’s all -or most- of her there now, instead of just a piece. So we all just do what we were going to do before.”
“Yeah, except this time instead of coming back with us, we have to cross her over instead. *sobs*”
“…… not…. necessarily…..”
“What, are we going to bring her back as a damn GHOST? Or like back to her rotting body?! WTF are you thinking you crazy fox?!”
“There’s a reason they say ‘crazy like a fox’”
“Well, she’s a fox too. Maybe she’s got her own crazy thing she’s working on.”
“Well we won’t know unless we go find out.”
“Okay, we each have a piece of the puzzle. We’ll go together and figure it out as we go along. That’s… that’s how she did things, on the fly.”
“Yeah well she was fucking reckless and look where it got her.”
“Yeah but… but maybe we have to resonate with that, with her, to find her. And, maybe she was right that risk is part of the price for magic. Remember in my story? The sacrifices in the chalices?”
“Are you saying we’re sacrifices? I don’t think I like the sound of that.”
“*sobs some more*”
“No… no… just… maybe the risk is the sacrifice. In my story, making the sacrifice was a risk. But… sometimes the price is courage. You both told me that, in different ways.” She sent the determination meme again.
“Okay, so we go in blind.”
“No. Not blind. Just maybe a little Foolish.”
The gears in his head click and clack with the reliability of a clock. He is thinking. Methodically and step by step. He knows he has time. In fact, he intends to wield time. It doesn’t matter how long she’s down there. It won’t have happened. None of this will have happened. She won’t remember. He’ll remember for both of them. He laid it all out, taking the clock apart, examining the gears. She’s slipped timestreams before. That’s what she says. She says it happens when she could have died but didn’t. But this time she did die. So that means there should be some slippy time rolling around. (Slippy. That’s her word. Damn how she’s colonized my brain.) She should be able to slip into a timestream where she didn’t die. I just have to bring it to her. I have to find the right timestream. How do I do that? How’d she do it before? Me. Right? She oriented on me. Holy shit. Her tether. She said I’m her tether. I have to get down there and… what? Be a portal? Be a tether? How? How do I do that? Maybe I should just go and see what happens. That’s what she would do. But that’s why I keep having to drag her away from death. First the thing with the runes, then the thing with the flu, then the thing with limbo, now this. Damnit that woman is always throwing herself at Death. Why does she do that? Because she’s a witch. Because she’s a fox. Because she lives liminally. I don’t do that. I don’t throw myself at Death. Why does she? His own thoughts took her voice, Because Death always finds you, you don’t have to go looking. You fear Death and do not seek it. Oh. So some attain liminality, some have liminality thrust upon them. Delightful. Well, I guess I just have to keep embracing it. Time to sleep. To dream. And in this sleep of Death what dreams may come when I have shuffled off this mortal coil? Well, I have a damn good reason for shuffling off. A consummation devoutly to be wished. I can’t let it give me pause. What did she always say? There is no fear in love and True Love drives out fear. Well then, into the wild astral-blue yonder, fearless and full of love. Gentle-handed, lion-hearted.
She was ripped from home to a desert. A desert where a forest once stood. All around her was emptiness and desolation. Yet she could feel others there. She reached out to touch their minds. They were numb as the dead left on the side of Mt. Everest. The Dead. Oh yeah. She was dead. The dead. She’d been here before. She was back in limbo. Fucking lovely. She realized her eyes had been closed. She opened them. Yep, desert. What else? Lilies. Lilies all around. The kind people throw in graves. Why can’t I move? I’m all tied up. Damnit. This was not how this was supposed to go. And then she remembered. She remembered the last time she was here. She remembered how it had changed her. She remembered all the warnings he had given her, warnings she had ignored in her self-obsession. She was so obsessed with getting herself back that she’d lost him. She’d lost herself. She’d lost her life. She’d lost everything. All because she wandered into this godforsaken place. She’d only wound up here because she’d gone to Hell to push him out. Here was BETTER than where she’d been before. No. She put the mental brakes on. She lost everything because she had been too focused on herself. She had consciously chosen to focus on herself and had brazenly abused his support. She remembered now. He told her she’d been dismissive. He told her she’d been controlling. He told her she’d been reckless. He told her she’d been hurtfully unconcerned with his feelings. By the time she realized it, it was too late. She remembered more. She remembered all the people she had hurt. She remembered her own flights of fancy left other people in Hell. No wonder she had to go to Hell. Being here was really a mercy. She deserved Hell for all the hearts she’d taken, crushed. She didn’t even deserve the relative peace of the lilies. She deserved Hell. She was full of rage and pain. She didn’t know who to blame. In my dream I was a werewolf. I ate their hearts. I ate my friends’ hearts. I eat hearts. I’m a succubus. A destroyer. A soul sucker. An eater of hearts. A marker of thralls. In my dream I was a werewolf. An animal. A monster. I’m not human. I’m evil. I’m evil. That’s why I slipped into Hell so easily. I belong there. I’m evil. I must be destroyed. Her spiral of self-loathing was abruptly interrupted by the sound of church bells. She was driving. Well, she was trying to pull out of a tight space. She could feel the lingering memory of his lips. She’d just been with him. She started driving down the road home. The bells continued to ring. She somehow felt like she was watching herself, watching someone else, being herself, and being someone else, all simultaneously. The bells calmed the disorientation. She remembered the bells. She could hear them through her bedroom window when she was younger. She would climb out onto her roof to smoke and listen. She remembered the bells of Cambridge, when she would hang out the window, and smoke, and listen to the clamoring of a hundred melodies. She missed the bells. My gods she missed the bells. Everything within her softened. The bells dissolved her defenses. Dissolved her pain, like they had in her youth. Dissolved all thoughts that were not of the bells. Then they stopped. If she had been counting, she would know ten soundings had passed. It felt like infinity. It might have done her good to know. To know the bells tolled completion. It felt like eternity. She could still feel him on her lips. She missed him like she missed the bells. Spoke to her deep in an unreachable part of her heart. Tears flowed down her face and she knew she had to find that place. The place where they were together under the bells. With newfound strength, she stood, breaking the bonds around her legs. She felt every place her arms were bound. She felt the rope digging in to her. And she showed it what it felt like to uncoil instead, to flow into her hands, to become something else, something far more powerful. They liked the idea, and did as she pleased. She stood with arms outstretched, a sword in her right hand, a chalice in her left. There was a road leading away from her place in the lilies. The road out? Someone was blocking the path, clad in armor and facing away. She marched toward the figure, who turned at her approach. She levelled her sword at the faceless opponent. “Who are you?” she bellowed, “Are you keeping me here?” In response, the figure unsheathed its sword and levelled it at her in return. She felt the skills of lifetimes flood her with forgotten muscle memories. She flicked her sword to her opponent’s hilt, disarming and distracting, then moved in quickly and struck off the helmet. “YOU!” she gasped. She stood face to face with herself. Mostly herself. Herself if she had black eyes and a hungry look. “I know who you are. You’re the part of me that takes the hearts.” She levelled her sword towards the offending heart, ready to thrust. Ready to end that which caused so much pain to so many people. “Do it” echoed the dark mirror. Instead, she dropped her sword. “But I need you. You’re the one who protected my love when his life was threatened. You’re the one who keeps me fighting. You’re the one who makes the hard decisions. You’re the one who shouts in my ear when I’m counseling, telling me all the dirty secrets people try to hide to keep me from the truth, to keep me from telling them the truth and shattering their delusions. You’re the part of me that shatters my own delusions. If I killed you… I wouldn’t be me. And dead or alive, I need to at least be whole. I love you!” And she ran to herself, wrapped herself in a tight embrace, pulled back, and ripped the heart from her dark doppleganger, nearly falling over from the effort. She glanced at the heart in her hand and, with a heave, stood up straight and calmly ripped out her own heart. She clutched them together in her right hand and held them over her head, squeezing them tightly, as if she could make them meld by force of will. She plunged them into the empty chalice, which boiled over with her hearts’ blood. She watched with a mix of horror and glee. Blood covered both her arms, both her chests. The dark self was crumbling to the ground, boiling blood from every pore. What happened next was so surreal, the only thing that prepared her for it at all was a childhood spent rewinding VHS tapes. The bloody mess that had been her other self merged with the blood boiling out of the cup and seemed to run up it. Soon there was not even a stain where the other had been. The cup no longer boiled over. Instead, it seemed impossibly heavy and indescribably dark, like the deepest reaches of the sea where even man’s technology hasn’t reached. She smiled, lifted the chalice to her lips, and quaffed the black blood, gulping, choking, ecstatic, hungry, impassioned, alive. As the last of it danced over her tongue and down her throat, she swung the chalice around over her head and launched it, releasing a wail that became a song, a primal war cry. She collapsed onto all fours and felt her body contract. She sprouted fur and tail, sharp tooth and nail. Her hips were suddenly all wrong. No, not wrong, not for this shape. Just right for this shape. She skittered down the road on fox feet, gekkering in the joy of liberation. She smelled the dead. They smelled like fear and unwashed bedsheets. There was another smell, it was sharp and sweet and green. She ran towards it. Her strides somehow took her impossibly long distances, as if she wore ten league boots. She didn’t hear the creak. She felt the crack. Ow damnit! Something fell on my bleedin’ head! At her feet was a golden apple. It was the source of the sweet sharp smell. She’d been so intoxicated by the scent that she’d nearly missed it! She rolled it around on the ground for a bit. Then she ate it whole. She shouldn’t have been able to do that. Well, she shouldn’t be a four-legged furball either, but such is death. She felt the apple slide into her stomach and bloom into a lotus on her back. What is it with wetland flowers down here? There’s no bleedin’ water to be seen. Bleedin’. She’d always said that. It meant so much more now. Quite of its own accord, her tail raised itself over her head, the white tip now shining like a lantern. It swayed insistently in one direction. So, she cocked her head to the side, listened, and chased her tail. In the land of the dead, you follow your behind. If I got down here I can get out. I’m following the trail -well, I’m following my tail- back the way I came. I don’t remember coming, but whatever is in my tail does! It felt like there were magnets in her tail that were attracted by a path of magnets in the ground. She saw them now! Little rails of light, punctuated with radiant iridescent spheres. She tore through the woods, it was lucky she was a fox because no human body could do this. The magnetic tail met opposing polarity and she skidded to a halt. It was a river. Everything had gone dark while she ran through the woods. There were woods here? She thought it was all desert. But she clearly remembered running through the woods. Well, here’s a river so now I have to deal with that. She delicately dipped an exploratory paw in the water and felt ripples approaching from the left. She could barely make it out in the red light of the horizon, but a coracle cruised gently towards her. When it drew up beside her, she stopped it with a paw. With a flick of her tail, she sent the lotus leaping from her back into the boat, and jumped in after it. The boat lurched forward, nearly tossing her out, but again her tail seemed to meet some oppositional force which compelled her back. The lotus spun and whirred and the boat glided on apace. A red sun set behind her, illuminating the shore, her escape. Every cell in her body jumped out at her and she saw them. Three women, clad in black cliché, stood under a willow tree. Well, to say they stood gives the impression they were still. Quite the reverse, actually. There was nothing serene about the scene beneath the willow tree. The three gesticulated wildly and seemed to be speaking all at once. Well, to say they were speaking gives the impression that they used measured tones. Rather, they seemed to be shouting. They did not hear the soft sound of the coracle slip to shore. They did not hear the patter of fox paws approaching. They did not hear the groan of several pounds of mass rearranging itself to fill roughly twice the volume it so recently had. What they did hear, finally, was a loud and unpracticed “Hi guys!” chirped from fresh vocal chords. They all jumped. Turned. Gasped. Rushed her in relief. Wrapped her in weary arms.
“I love you too, ladies! Come on, let’s go!”
“Wait what?” asked one.
“I dunno,” said a second.
“I know. Let’s go!” shouted the third.
That third woman ran off, not slowing as her arms became wings and her legs no longer touched the ground. The crow flew off into the dark horizon. A fleet fox followed behind her, all faith in her flying friend. Next, bounding into the red expanse, was something like the product of an unlikely union between a dragon and a deer. The final woman shook her head and sprouted antlers. She ran after her kin on the legs of a stag, rapidly closing the gap between them. Eventually, the crow alighted on a gleaming gold garden gate and became a jet-clad woman with wild red curls, which she shook out like they suffocated her. Where the fox sat down, a woman lay sprawled on the ground, panting heavily, her face half-hidden in matted brown hair, her cheeks flushed with excitement. The stag nosed the loafer’s head and became an obsidian-haired beauty in black tails and top hat. The fourth woman stomped up from a stand of trees, flinging back her auburn locks with the fierceness of frustration and purpose.
“This is the crossing place,” spake the raven.
“I feel something that way, though,” gestured the vixen. They all looked where she was pointing, looked at each other, and shrugged. “You were right to bring us here, sister, but there’s something here beside the crossing point! It’s like there’s a magnet in my tail. Well, I don’t have a tail anymore. But I can still feel it. I’m following it.” They tripped downhill away from the gate and towards the stand of trees. “We’re getting closer” She felt a trace of lips brush across hers. “It’s him! He’s here!” She took off running. In fact, she ran right into him. It would be nice to think she ran gracefully into his arms, ballerina-like, swan-like. It would be nice but it wouldn’t be true. She ran head-first into his elbow, which she grabbed, pulling him on top of her with such force that they both saw stars when their heads collided into each other, into the ground. When the lights receded, they kissed each other deeply and desperately. About the kiss, at least, we can be satisfied in our fairytale fantasy.
“Boop! I found you!”
“Well I was setting alight the you-shaped beacon.”
“You remembered!” then it hit her “You couldn’t have remembered that. It happened… It didn’t happen… It… Have you been there?” she was having another her’s memories.
“You mean you’ve been there?!”
“Yeah for a minute. Haven’t you? Isn’t that why-“
“I came to take you there, to the other timeline, the one where you don’t die!”
“You came for me! Oh my god you came for me! I love you! Oh, my god, I love you so much!”
A keen listener, at this point, would have heard a whispered, “Damn. All we got was ‘Hi’” and muffled titters. 
“A thought just came to me. A memory. A poem. Come on!”
“Where are we going?”
“To steal a horse.”
“Why are we going to steal a horse?”
“Because we need a ride. Obviously.”
“I don’t think we’re all going to fit on A horse.”
“Trust me. The horse we’re going to steal could carry the whole world if necessary.”
“Where is it?”
“Right there.”
“Erm… between where you are and where you’re looking.”
“Well that doesn’t exactly narrow it down.”
“No. I mean. Fuck. Just watch me.” And she stepped. She disappeared. But if they tilted their heads and looked from the corner of their eyes, they could just see her standing in snow, waving.
“Oh!” they all breathed together and stepped into the snow.
“Ok. So. Welcome to the castle of The Dark Lord Hades. Let’s go steal his steed.” As she scampered away, her feet left little fox prints in the snow. In what seemed like no time at all, they had arrived at the walls of the castle.
“That seemed like no time at all,” stated Rainbow Brite.
The fox became a messy person. “Oh, yeah, I’m slicing time. Or space. Space-time. Yeah. I dunno. It’s a thing a lotus taught me. I think. Speaking of which-“ she shoved her hand into her body just below the ribcage and pulled out a glowing lotus.
“What’s that?”
“For what?”
“The horse of Hades.”
“I thought we were going to steal the horse.”
“We are, but if there’s an enemy you don’t want to make, it’s Hades. I’ll leave him the lotus and when we’re done with the horse we’ll send it back. A life for a life, he’ll send the lotus back.”
“Wait, a life for a life? Does that mean? Are you going to kill someone?”
“No no no. I had someone in mind, I won’t lie. But that’s something the evil me would do and she’s not calling the shots anymore. And I don’t need to. My amazing man found a loophole. I’m not escaping purgatory, I’m jumping to a timestream in which I never wound up here.”
“And why do we need the horse for this? A carousel always worked just fine for me. We could probably use a tree branch or something…”
“Because you don’t know where you’re going. That is, if you want to come with me. I don’t really know what happens when a probability collapses. But where I’m going, you won’t remember unless you go with me. We can’t jump individually and wind up in the same timestream. I’m the one with the coordinates.”
“Well the damn HORSE doesn’t have the coordinates!”
“It’s a telepathic horse.”
“Well I’m tele-‘
“Yeah but you’re not currently an n-dimensional creature with the carrying capacity of an infinite Budweiser Clydesdale. You’re packed pretty tightly into that human suit for now, sister, despite how flexible it is out here.”
She ran off, following the walls closely. Her family of four followed. “Witches always use the back door,” she whispered and stepped through solid stone. This time, they were all used to the woo woo permeability of the place and walked right through the wall without hesitation.
“I can smell the stable,” was whispered from the shadow beneath a top hat. “This way.” They all crept carefully behind on her coattails. She slowly swung open a door making soft “Shhh” sounds, like something from an album titled “Soothing Sounds of the Sea”. The horses were all restless but they settled as she patted each nose in turn during her procession between the boxes. In the very last stall on the right there stood a horse hands higher than the rest, shining like full moon light. She gently pushed the stall door open and lead the horse out, it’s nose following her open hand. “Okay, guys. Umm. All aboard?”
The messy woman laid the lotus in the horse’s stall and climbed up the short stall walls, onto the horse’s back. Somehow, as each boarded its back, the horse grew to accommodate the additional rider without seeming to actually grow at all.
“Okay, Changeling, I do need your telepath skills. You’re the expert on timeslipping. Telepath me that kind of headspace. The coordinates don’t do me any good without an OS to process them.”
“Okay, I’ve got it. Here.”
“Oh. Wow. Okay. Yeah. Perfect. Wow. Oh this is lovely. Umm okay I think it would probably be easier if you gave that to everyone.” She felt his hot breath in her ear before he whispered, “Take my heart.”
“What? Are you crazy? No! I- I’m not- I don’t do that anymore!”
“I don’t mean rip it out. I mean take it.”
“Only if you take mine.”
Carefully, they reached into each other’s chests and, gentle-handed, clasped each other’s hearts. The space between them exploded in blue and gold. A whirling tunnel, like the sky-end of a tornado, opened up in front of them.
“Are you sure this is going to work?” one of the women shouted over the whirwind, “We might still wind up separated or without memories or worse.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll believe enough for all of us!” With an internal shout of exultation, she shoved the coordinates into the horse’s head and leaned in. And we leap into our “reasonably comfortable and completely capable” ever after to the peal of ringing bells.