When I was 16 or so, I spent my nights on IRC chat. I didn’t really have access to other Pagans back then—if there was a witch/New Age store in Lawrence at that time, I don’t remember it; I couldn’t have afforded workshops even if there had been; and I wasn’t in the habit of driving to Kansas City at the time—so the internet was my primary access point to the Pagan Community At Large.
Damn I wish I had those log files, but they must have gotten lost three computers ago. I can’t even remember the names of most of the people I talked to, though I may still have a few pictures of them somewhere in the archives. SnowLeopard. Latinius. Tig. My handles were ScholarMage and ShadowWolf. Don’t judge me: it was the mid-90s. Handles making references to totem animals were ubiquitous, and there was inevitably enough overlap that most of us had two or three variations on our favorite handles on case our favorites were taken. No one had registered or proprietary identities: that’s not how IRC worked.
These things come to mind now in part because of a recent post by the good Jack Faust. When I think of the combination of magic and the internet, two experiences from my faunish days come immediately to mind. Although I know I wrote about them at some point, I haven’t found these events in my very fragmentary journals from the time, so I have to rely on the hazy images of memories a decade and a half old. Both push the borders of my “adult” credulity, but this is how I remember them.
Much of the time I spent not-on-the-internet was spent at a coffee shop called the Java Break. One night, walking home, I felt like I was being followed. I kept looking behind me, but the streets and alleys all seemed as deserted as usual. I was wound pretty tight by the time I made it home. That night I woke from a dead sleep to see a large, cat-shape sitting beside my bed; this was doubly strange because I slept on the top bunk, which mean the cat-shape was just floating in the air. I was (in retrospect, unaccountably) terrified, and I asked it to leave. It got up, shrugged, and departed: fading out of sight as it walked in place. When I shared this experience with my IRC friends, SnowLeopard claimed it was her spirit guide, checking me out because he was bored. This may have been the first time I ever saw and interacted directly with a spiritual entity.
On another occasion, someone on the chat circuit wanted to show me how to call lightning using a stone circle. Somehow, though I had no experience or training in (or even vocabulary for) visionary/astral work (in fact, this was the heyday of my failed attempts at astral projection), this gentleman was able to transmit to me, and I was able to receive and experience, a process of calling lightning to oneself from the center of a stone circle. The ability to so something like that is, of course, an extraordinary claim: one that I have never tested, though I can still (as with many of my visionary experiences) recall the scene with incredible, visceral clarity. For whatever it’s worth, I imagine that a person with adequate focus and training could possibly manipulate the magnetism of a storm to that degree. (Why not? I’ve seen people make fire dance to their will, fuck with lights and computers in improbable ways. I, myself, have changed the wind to keep campfire smoke out of my eyes on numerous occasions.) I don’t, however, believe for a moment that a magician has any better chances of surviving a lightning strike than anyone else, even if he called it down.
That’s it: A spiritual visitation on one occasion, and a shared visionary experience on another. Two anecdotal accounts from a not-particularly-tech-savvy, pubescent, magician-in-training who wasn’t even keeping coherent journals at the time. But it makes one think. What might be possible for someone who was fully-trained? Particularly someone actively interested in techno-magic?