Monthly Archives: August 2013

Genius Locii: Overseer of the Standing Stones

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When our friend Sthenno learned that Aradia and I were going on a road trip to the Badlands, she asked us to bring her back some dirt to dad to her collection of Earth and Waters from various parts of the world.  She gave us a baggie to collect the dirt in, and a vial of water and a tea-light to serve as an offering for the exchange.

Although we were happy to oblige, there was the small concern of where and how to do such a thing.  After all, the removal of any rocks or plants from a national park is technically a crime (though we carried off enough mud on or shoes and gear to equal easily five times the volume that we collected for Sthenno).  Further (and, frankly, more importantly), this was not a region where white people have historically covered themselves in glory with regards to the First Nations peoples or the spirits of the land.  Although Aradia got a slightly different vibe off of everything, the overwhelming majority of the spirits that I could percieve in the Badlands were fundamentally disinterested in my existence one way or the other.

The one notable exception to that was a spirit near our camp site.  There was a hill to the West of us that called to me.  And not just me: a camp of hippies near us took it upon themselves to climb the small mountain in the dark.  Aradia and I watched their lights and listened to their yells; I very much wanted to follow them—as I put it then, “carrying our jug of wine and screaming like a maenad”—but Aradia disuaded me.

The spirit knew that we needed dirt, and it called to me.  The second day we did climb the hill, and found concentric circles of carefully stacked stones with a set of three piles that were clearly an altar of sorts, and two extra pairs set like gateways at the heads of two paths leading further away from the site.  The spirit—who we believe called others there to erect the “standing stones”—accepted Sthenno’s offer of water and fire in exchange for the dirt (though the wind made the latter … complicated), but wanted blood from Aradia and I without making itself particularly clear about what it was offering in return.  We politely declined, and—perhaps as a result–the spirit also made clear that we were not to take any pictures of the top of it’s hill, so the above picture from the road is the only image I can offer you; one can just barely see the stones rising up at the top of the hill.

Upon our return, the dirt maintained a clear and potent charge, and Sthenno was startled but intrigued to hear the story.  For myself, I look forward to hearing what comes of her workings with the dirt and the associated spirit.

The site, itself, remains clear in my mind, and it is my intention to return astrally to see what I can learn from that perspective.

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Spirits of Earth and Air

Last Friday Aradia and I skidded into KC at the end of a nine day road trip to the South Dakota Badlands and Rocky Mountain National Park.  As tempting as it was, in theory, to turn the road trip into a spiritual retreat, the fact is that I desperately needed the vacation.  And what a vacation it was.   Even after all the travelling I’ve done with Aradia and my family, I had never seen landscapes like the ones I saw over that week-and-a-half: the Karst cartography of central and south Missouri gave way to the Loess hills of northern MO and eastern Iowa before we set off across the grasslands of South Dakota.  We came into the Badlands from the north, via I-90, and I don’t even know how to describe the feeling when the earth dropped off in front of us, only to rise back up in magnificent spires of white and red stone.

A view from the Juniper Forrest trail.

A view from the Juniper Forrest trail.

 

Tragically, as our visit coincided with the Perseid meteor shower, it rained on us briefly every day we were there, despite the arid climate, and every night was overcast.  That unseasonable water made it all the more shocking when I tried to get a sense of the spirits of the place and sensed nothing by Earth and Air: ancient, slow-moving things from whom I sensed not just a vast indifference to human life, but to mortal life in general.  My poetic nature wants to describe that indifference as “bordering on cruelty”, but I think that’s a little bit of projection and a great deal of anthropomorphization; I think the spirits that ancient stone, weathered by the wind and by water whose brief appearances is as destructive to the rock as it is necessary to the survival of plant and animal life, are simply the most alien things I have yet to come into contact with.

The Badlands were vast, alien, and austere.  So far from my lands in which I have invested my power, and from the Water which makes up so much of my nature, I felt empty—sucked dry.  Surprisingly, that feeling was healing and cathartic: my waters have been murky, almost poisoned for the last year, by the stresses of my personal and academic life, and by the rigid forces of the ceremonial I had been practicing.  By travelling outside my own personal bog, I was able to let some of those “contaminants” (to continue the metaphor) dry out and be carried off by the constant winds of the desert.

From there were traveled south and further west, cutting through the top-left corner of Nebraska into eastern Wyoming, where we skirted the foothills into north-eastern Colorado where, after gaining elevation slowly over hundreds of miles, we finally ascended into the mountains proper.  The thin air of the Rockies hit me hard, and I was nearly useless for the first twenty hours or so.  The green and grey vistas of the mountains hit me as hard as the desert had, and I found the magical climate much more to my liking, but even farther from “home” and equally alien.

A View from Alpine Ridge Road.

The Rocky Mountains, as viewed from Alpine Ridge Road.

I don’t know if the Rocky Mountains are actually younger, geologically, than the Badlands, but they felt that way to me.  More patient, and with an indifference to my passing that was somehow less hostile.  Earth and Air still dominated, but Water was more familiar, perhaps even more welcome.  When I finally had the opportunity to perform the Stele of Jeu on the last day—something that I had been trying to fit in for the whole trip—the local spirits wanted reassurance that I was not attempting to dominate them, but they took me at my word that I only sought to purify myself.

By the end of the trip, as we came down off the mountain to get coffee in Denver and struck off eastward for dinner and a hotel in Hays, I finally felt like a person again: scoured clean by spirits of Earth and Air.

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