I have been saying for years, if not a decade, that you cannot know anything external until you completely know yourself. Put another way: until you do sufficient shadow work, you can’t really see past your own nose, and that’s true socially, scientifically, philosophically, mystically, and magically.
Prior to that, as I have elsewhere stated, I had seen deities physically manifest. Honestly, in hindsight, I hadn’t, at that point, done enough of my own shadow work to know if those experiences were anything. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. Hard to say. But that’s irrelevant, because, in my opinion, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to. And we’ll stick a pin in that, because by the end of my tale, your narrator will have learned why they generally don’t.
I submit for your consideration the narrator in question, as they existed at the beginning of lockdown: one 40-something NB iconoclast and parental unit. If the narrator was a type of ice-cream, it would be chocolate-mushroom, best described as “somewhat sweet, but confusing,” or perhaps, “infuriating to the purist,” and if they were a t-shirt, the t-shirt would be black, and simply read “ungovernable” in stark white lower case print. Of course, that is how I describe myself as I was at that time. I assume that I’m permitted to be charitable.
I recall, at the time, I wrote a great deal because I was often peeved. I was peeved about a lot of things. I was infuriated by the Polytheist community which seemed to be full of people hell bent on depriving others of choices, and making people afraid, primarily of theological constructs and deities and invisible things. And then, curiously, one day, it’s not that I stopped caring about the people being hurt, but rather, I came to a sense of peace about the cycles of trauma that people were trapped in, and the fact that there was nothing I could do about it. I realized that the problem wasn’t a handful of people in one community, but a pervasive cultural issue with the United States, and many more countries besides. There was an enormous socio-ecological-economic-political tangle that created bastardry everywhere, in every facet of life, in every community, in every religion. There was not one single, solitary area of human existence that was untouched by it. The problem was well above my pay grade, so I decided to crawl into a hole for a while and level up. Because shy of Merlin or some such personage riding a fire breathing dragon out of a damn cave, scorching the Bezos estate, and having it bite the heads off of a certain targeted subset of the elite, nothing was going to get substantively better any time soon.
Now, I am Otherkin. I have identified that way for decades. This is important to my story. Specifically, I am am fairy-kin. No, not the… pretty… glamorous… winged sort. I wish. Fertility, but not the sexy kind. Of the Earth, in that sort of way that rotting things make the soil fertile. Conception, too: one time there was a rash of people I didn’t want to deal with getting pregnant and dropping out of my high school, and I didn’t actually do it on purpose. A being associated with the sort of mushroom that decomposes fallen trees. With ant-friends, and mold, and bacteria, and fruit-flies. Blighting of crops. I do that too. I’m highly creative. Things fall apart around me. Basically, every ugly, nasty, gushy, stinky, creepy crawly, mostly microscopic life-cycle thing you never want to think about. Obviously, I don’t put that on my business cards, or mention it at cocktail parties. And I always wondered… why on Earth does a deity like Hermes want to hang out with me, again? I actually still wonder that.
But somehow, I dunno, I just sort of forgot about this when I had the thought that I wanted to “level up” and physically manifest my magical powers.
And what I did was so simple that it shouldn’t have done a damn thing, honestly. I just spent time meditating on the nature of matter. About matter’s relationship to time. How actual matter was a part of the flow of time. I’d sit there conjuring thought forms in replica of physical objects, then compare the physical object and the replica, descrying the one thing, then the other, and then try again. And again. And again. But I think the difference was that I’d actually gotten over some critical portion of my anger and my fear. I’d done enough shadow work that I’d begun to see past my nose.
And what I was trying to manifest was elemental magic. But what happened was that all of a sudden, decomposition in my immediate vicinity began responding powerfully to my emotions.
Like, I got frustrated, and I huffed out a sigh into the fridge in the direction of a fresh gallon of milk in a plastic jug. Two hours later, it was yogurt, and there were veins of blue mold in it. As if all the microbes were like, “Oh, did you need me to dispatch this for you?”
A similar thing happened with a loaf of bread that was ‘in my way’ turning into a solid brick of mold overnight.
What did I think I was going to get? The ability to fly? Teleport, maybe? Why did I think it was going to be anything other than the set of powers that my kin-self had? Did I think my kin-self would just go away? I must have. Because it wasn’t fireballs, or the ability to cast magic missile that I got. No. It was decomposition. I’m a rot fairy with rot powers, and so when I plug my powers into the physical plane, no matter how many stupid initiations I have done, no matter how many spells and rituals I have learned, the thing that’s going to immediately come online is rot. And it will not respond to my invocations, or my conscious direction, it will respond to the primal, non-verbal aspect of my nature.
As I was grappling with “well, ok, I need to gain an understanding of precisely how various microbes map onto my emotional realities, I guess,” and trying to find a gods-damned off switch, because this was NOT as much fun as I thought it would be, I did what any reasonable person in my position would do. I started asking the gods about it.
I asked Hermes: “How do I turn this off?”
Hermes shook his head. “Babe, I dunno. Fairies are Celtic. I think you gotta go talk to someone from your own pantheon? Because I have this lingering fear that if I start fucking around with actual real fairy shit, I’m going to somehow wind up with the Morrigan’s foot up my ass, and I’m not here for it.”
“Well,” I said, “I have a husband over there, I think. I think he’d help. I remember what he looks like, anyway. Kind of burly. Bald. Big old stick. Wears a lion skin. Gets on a soap box a lot.”
“Wait… husband?” Hermes asked.
“I say ‘husband'” I replied, “It’s more accurate to say that he’s a pre-existing condition. Our relationship has something to do with caves, I’m pretty sure. Like maybe he’s a cave spirit. I’ll do a google search.”
It was fucking Ogma.
And yes, he was able to help me pack away the rampant mold, bacteria, and tiny vermin, at least until such time as I develop a Vulcan level of internal control over my passions. And he helped me to understand those facets of myself the broader context of who I was, where I came from, and what the Earth Mother had originally assembled me for.
But back to why deities don’t bamf down into the physical plane to talk to their followers, no matter how inside out and backwards the human condition seems to get.
I was a magician of 40 years, but I didn’t succeed in understanding why deities stopped directly talking to human beings with their own faces until Ogma expounded it to me.
Now, I’m not purporting to represent Irish religion. I’m not making any statements regarding what is or is not true in any Celtic tradition, but Ogma, like Hermes and Apollon, is a deity that’s been with me for so long that when I first encountered him, my brain contained no lore to associate with him, and consequently pasted him onto media lore. Only with this google search did I discover that the middle aged warrior poet who was built like a brick shit house was the same person as the middle aged warrior poet that was built like a brick shit house. So, if you prefer, just say to yourself that this is *my* Ogma, and be done with it.
But Ogma is old. The University of Wales has this project going that I’m absolutely in love with, though they are adamant that it’s still a work in progress and not yet citable. What they are doing is going through Celtic languages looking for cognates, and completing a word list, positing a “Proto-Celtic” language. I’m telling you this because there are names of deities on that list, as these linguistic researchers posit they maybe might have been in that language. And one of those deities? Ogmaja. Which is to say, if you connect the dots, at least according to this group of researchers, at least tentatively, his existence has left footprints all over the place, and may have been around since before all of those different Celts split off into their respective branches and languages and cultures. Maybe. Possibly.
And Ogma is old. As in, he’s described by Roman sources as an aging Heracles. But that’s odd for a few reasons. He carries a big ass club. He’s a god of strength. Why old? He’s a god of persuasion. The champion of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Why. Old?
What he said to me was as follows.
“You know. Every time a deity manifests, they enter the flow of time and subject themselves to entropy. And it’s only a little every time. A little here. A little there. Over twelve thousand years, it adds up a bit, it does. So when you’re thinking it through, you need to run a cost-benefit analysis. Obviously,” he gestured broadly at himself, “I made the decision that it was worth it more than a few times. But just for a message? Surely you know by now that a human doesn’t decide what to believe based upon evidence. Indeed, the stronger the evidence, the harder they’ll dig in their heels. A god doesn’t manifest to change minds. He manifests to avert a very physical disaster. And he hopes no one notices, so that some arsehole of a priest or another won’t use it as a cudgel to beat their parishioners over the head with. All a manifestation ever proves is that something is real. And you’d be floored by just how incredibly clever people can be, using that ‘something’ to draw entirely opposite and even unrelated conclusions. Thank you, but if I want an exercise in futility, I’ll go and try to explain world history to the English.”
Now, of course, the big risk of a hypothesis-driven practice is discovering, every so often, that you’re wrong. It means sometimes having to shed ideas that have been disproven, and kick exploded paradigms to the curb. But it’s the process, as ever, that’s most important to my practice, of postulating, testing, revising, and rolling forward. And if one thing has been affirmed for me more strongly than ever, it is that I should never become too attached to one way of working, or one idea of how magic functions, because a newer, better, more powerful one will always be up ahead along the path.