Posts Tagged path

Bricks

A YouTuber that I enjoy, Caddicarus, has been prefacing his lockdown videos over recent months by screaming ‘What is going on?!’ – because The World is Made of Bricks and he’s trapped at home. A (rather dark) comedy way to visualise his feelings about these crazy times.

And now, the world is slightly less Made of Bricks. We can go out! But after a visit to our nearest town a couple of weeks ago, we’re nowhere near back to Life Before just yet.

The feeling in the air was one of fear. Masks everywhere, I’m glad to say, and people doing what they could – I’ve yet to see any anger or nasty words, thank goodness. That feeling of tautness in the air, though, as if something bad (worse?) is about to happen…

The last few weeks have still been very difficult for me, health-wise. I hate talking about this really, as there’s always the voices in my head nagging away: ‘Oh, she’s off again. What NOW? You know people are probably sick to death of it by now. Why can’t you write something normal?’

These are absolutely all phrases that have been said to my face in the past, by the way. Which doesn’t help.

I’ve been wanting to write, but the words haven’t been coming. The World is Made of Bricks, and bricks aren’t very inspiring.

Then I think about this.

Years ago, there was a Handfasting where the couple used a brick as their wedding Stone, the symbolic foundation of their relationship. It was a brick that was part of the batch that had built their house.

Bricks are heavy, but they are stones crafted by us. So many people put tremendous emphasis on the importance of stones in magic, but those are usually of the sparkly crystal variety. Either way, stones have been taken from the earth that is where they’ve been formed, and brought to fulfil a purpose in our lives.

I write this in a room with exposed brick walls and floor. I can feel them beneath my feet right now. I loved this house for its natural floors, as I’d rather go barefoot given half a chance.

I’ve been feeling trapped during lockdown, and that feeling only worsened when I ventured out. I’ve heard people speaking of being ‘stuck at home’ as a time for reflection, and that’s fine, but humans are generally social creatures. We need to reach out sooner or later, if only to assure friends that we’re not actually dead or to go find food shopping.

The bricks overwhelming my mind aren’t safe places for me to hide. They’re crushing me, like a medieval torture. They’re preventing me from Doing, holding me in with the thoughts that tell me how much I should be doing, and how much I CAN’T do. This is hiding like a fairytale creature, in the dark of a cave, the opposite of what Summer should be.

The World is Made of Bricks, and turned upside down at the same time. Instead of being at my busiest, I feel as productive as a brick. I remember another reviewer describing how a story flowed as easily as a river of bricks (yes, that slowly). And yet…

People have been reaching out to me. I’ve been answering. Before I know it, conversations are being had – admittedly via internet Messenger applications, but I’m hearing how friends are doing, helping professionally or just sharing enthusiasm about a good book or knitting pattern.

This year has come crashing down, but we are slowly building it back up. The bricks might not look the same as they did before, but they are still the foundation stones to our world. No matter where we fall, the ground will be there to catch us. We can make our space what we need it to be. It just takes one brick at a time.

I’m still here. My inspiration is finding its way, peeking through holes in the wall, and I’m tremendously sorry for being so quiet. I’m doing what I can, when I can.

The world is changing and the new path isn’t clear yet. I can feel it trying to form beneath our feet. One step at a time, gently… gently…

Here’s that floor, and Fen, whose Gotcha Day it is today. Ten years ago, he came home with us as a tiny puppy. This is his room too, his safe space as much as it is mine. This is him right now, keeping an eye on me as I work. The bricks are cool on a hot August day.

We build our lives. Some parts are brighter or stronger than others, but we are still here. Some days that feels like a miracle, and I’m glad of how solid a fact it is.

Fen 7-8-20

P.S. I was also reminded as I wrote this of a song from years ago that I rather loved. It’s a Christian band, but take the meaning as you will. This is ‘Let it Be‘, by Superchick – a song about bricks.

Stay strong, my friends.

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Life – a Tale Told…

Sometimes it’s all about the words. And sometimes, words just aren’t enough.

It’s part of our makeup as humans to communicate, to convey our experiences to others, both as a validation and to make sense of them to ourselves. We journal as an act of personal psychiatry and historical record. We blog to tell our stories to others, and to throw ideas out into the wider world, entirely unknowing of who will read them.

The paradox of what could be called Contemporary Pagan Practice (or 21st Century Magic, if you want to be glamorous) is that so much of it is hidden behind words. So many books, websites, so much talking, setting down traditions in stones of words mortared with vague ideas… and yet not much of it actually containing much that helps. So many secrets… or are they, really?

Since my last post, I’ve been pondering those Pagan ‘absolutes’, those key tenets that we are taught to work from. Each theory came from another after all, like any philosophy, those stones building on the work of others, tested by new readers/practitioners for strength and relevance, and built on in turn.

But how lazy have we become, with our ready supply of electronic information? Remember when to find something out you had to actively seek it? Go to libraries, order books from far away, write letters to pick the brains of others. Now the dilemma (and skill) is sifting through the overload of data, the ‘fact’ from opinion, the truth from fiction. Isn’t it just easier to pick the ‘facts’ that we like and work from them, without testing them to see if they actually fit our own needs, worldview, life?

And that in itself is another paradox. How can any spiritual ‘truth’ truly be true? Surely every spiritual experience is subjective, open to interpretation… and when turned into words, pinned down like a butterfly in a presentation frame, losing so much of its reality as to be useless – or at best, a story.

I know that the irony here is my writing of such things itself being so limiting, as I try to pin down concepts that are just too amorphous to be adequately portrayed in language. But that’s the rub for me – that’s the mystery itself.

The ancient Bards told stories to convey meanings, human truths that exist beyond ages, passed down through generations. Life is hard, but we’ve lived it – here’s part of the map that might help. Stories worth telling and re-telling. The value of fiction is lost, found, lost again, repackaged, hidden in marketing jargon… but when the words themselves convey Truth, you read or hear them and feel the difference. Compare a daily newspaper story with a much-loved tale that you know so well, you could almost quote it. Or imagine it so vividly that you could describe the landscape, how the wind feels as it blows across moors in Middle Earth, the stink of smoke in Victorian London, the fear in the heart of a lost hero.

True words are more than just swirls on pages (or pixels on screens). Words told well can go deeper, past the intellectual, the grammatically correct, the Award-winning. Enduring words pierce the heart, the soul, conveying experiences that we all know at some level, or want to know, actively seeking out again to feel for ourselves.

This is the heart of the Bardic mystery, for me – where words resonate as experiences.

Paganism (ancient or modern), as it is understood as seeing the sacred in the world around, conveys in words what has been called a ‘mystery religion’. In other words – ahem – you need to understand the mystery to gain the knowledge. It’s experiential. Books can guide, but only you can get out there and really do.

And that, dear reader, is the laziness we so often see. People want the books to give them answers, which they can learn and parrot back without true understanding. We all do it, there’s no shame – that’s how we’re taught these days. 2+2=4 (allegedly). Or the simpler alternative: the soundbite. Look deeper? Why should we, the story’s right there in the headline! But then as a young practitioner, someone will ask you a question about those rote-beliefs and over-simplistic statements… and you’ll realize how little you truly to know.

This is the point where many step away, returning to something a little safer, more easily quantified and understood. Those who continue are essentially readying themselves for the next step – moving into the story, becoming the hero, aiming to take part in the journey to understand where the writer is coming from. And, in due course, having their own story to tell, being a guide themselves, with all of the hard-won scars they earned along the way.

So what’s the point of the words? As I said, maps are handy, guidebooks, stories from those who’ve been there before. Every journey is unique (ask any explorer), but it’s always nice to set off with a rough idea of where you’re going and what you’re going to get into.

To me, Pagan/Druid (whatever label-word you wish) practice is tangible. Proper practice, that is – real work. Feeling the change in the seasons, the different tastes of energy in a crowded room, woodland, seashore or street. The deeper knowing that goes past the regular sensory input – seeing the relationships, the meanings, the motivations, the undercurrents. Going beyond the directions and out the other side of the map book: blank page, ‘Here be Dragons’.

The difference, for example, between casting a circle as per the instructions in your first guidebook and truly doing it truly, your way, when needed. The worry in the back of your mind that you’re ‘doing it wrong’, something bad may happen, you’ll feel stupid, it’s all just playing about anyway. Then the achievement of actually feeling that connection as you work with spirit, energy, however you wish to define it. Gained by practising, getting it wrong a few times, stumbling and carrying on anyway.

That’s what helps you build your own map. Describe it with words if it helps, but the memories of those experiences become familiar with practice, even with their subtle differences based on time, location and situation. Then you know what you’re aiming for, the goal, the circuitous route to it from the initial idea of ‘I want to perform a rite for this reason’ to standing there, at the focal point of that journey, almost at the summit and prepared to truly do

When it’s no longer about having the right coloured candles or the Very Expensive Altar Tools. Your Gods will know what you mean – step forward with honour and trust (in ritual and in life… because what’s the difference, anyway?).

This post was inspired by reading the story of a City magician, scrawling his runes in spray-paint on walls, recognising the power that we give to simple symbols – the Apple, the Golden Arches – and the simple transport magic of waving a Travelcard in the right place. The protection rite of a Lollipop Man, with his gilded robe and staff. The magical web of social media sites. We take so much for granted, that this is appropriate, that is not. What works forĀ us, personally, ourselves? What stories do we live in, every day?

When the Bard tells his story, listen to the words. Listen deeper. See the look in his eyes, the smile on her lips. For a tale to truly be told, it must be known inside and out, otherwise the discordance is audible. The note struck true, the poetry of inspiration, Awen, muse, conveyed through a skilled traveller, is no substitute for your own experience – but if it inspires you in turn, it has fulfilled its purpose.

Sometimes a metaphorical lightbulb over the head; a cosmic kick in the rear; an ‘oh yeah, silly me’ moment when something clicks into place. The words get us there… if we let them. Learn to listen, but then be brave enough to explore for yourself. Have no doubt that someone will listen to your tale in future, to chart their own course.

As I’ve said before, you’re never alone.

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