Forest of the Dead, Forest of Stories

It’s hard for me to sometimes know where some event emerges from, or what triggers something. Sometimes, yes, I launch a sigil, or I chant some barbarous names, and I can locate specific or immediate causes and results. However, there’s something to be said for seeing the results that do appear in your life as coming not from singular causes but instead as coming out of an environment of enchantments. Or, if I may put it more figuratively, but no less accurately, a forest of enchantments, relationships, and stories that I have curated, tended. And those things aren’t necessarily distinct from each other.

For example, I had a wild ride last night. Months ago, I began an ancestral shrine that also includes many of the saints I work with. Honored, blesséd dead and all that. Most of the time, the saints are far more active over there, or so I thought.

Now, let me constellate several things that have come to populate my forest of enchantments:

  • Work with the decans and stellar entanglement, in general, that has often seemed to me as a literal, endless forest
  • A constant stream of sigils relating to many things and some related Lynn McTaggart-style intention work, saints stuff, and some malefica
  • A bit of image magic with the decan of Cancer 2 involving, ahem, almonds, with an eye towards what the Picatrix associates with Cancer 2: games, wealth, joy, and abundance—and before that, with Cancer 1, with Cancer 3 coming up…
  • Recent work with the PGM, especially Agathos Daimon (Big Snek Energy) and—yesterday—preparations for some Agathe Tyche exploration and experiments (and AT has felt queerly resonant to me with Hekate and the Sibyl and…)
  • Lots of discussion about enchantment, faërien drama, Tolkien (I’m listening to Fellowship with wizard ears on Audible, having last encountered the text in the ‘90s, and it’s been quite illuminating), the PGM, hermeticism, animism, ka, ba, akh, and more, and most of these conversations weaving through each other in sometimes curiously synchronistic ways
  • Recent feelers out to Hermanubis
  • Walks about the neighborhood involving directionality, genius loci, Land, (not much) Sea, Sky, and crossroads
  • A trip to the cemetery for the once upon a time home for wayward women (and their children) to check in (they’re quite well) and to drop off some post for the underworld
  • Lots of dreams about ascending arcology-scale towers, navigating mazes within said towers, what’s running said upper levels—not counting the dreams and hypnogogia relating to the Dreaming-side of a lot of the above

And, I’m pretty sure, even more. It’s less that I have a singular campaign of enchantment but a kind of personal compost pile and, well, a growing forest of enchantments working across the celestial, the terrestrial, and the chthonic, as distinct as those realities may not actually be.

So, it is in all this that I was lying on the floor. I was stretching after one such walk where the crows wanted to show me a spot to check out and talk to the tree there. I lay there, pondering ka as relating to one’s ancestral “energy” (perhaps, how the ancestors quite literally and spiritually quicken and vivify us, help constitute our “energy bodies”). And after one particular stretch, I suddenly had a flash of lying in a dark place, many arms and hands holding me back, restraining me. Not foreign, unknown arms—

After the initial “That doesn’t usually happen after stretching,” I leaned into the image, the scene a bit. It struck me as fundamentally ancestral in origin: it was my ancestors, or at least many of them, trying to pull me back from, well, much of anything. It wasn’t the time there to press the image further, so I resolved to come back to it after nightfall when I didn’t have other pressing matters.

When I did so, I lit up a bunch of candles, threw some myrrh for Cyprian, asked several allies to help me negotiate whatever was going on, including a call-out to Hermanubis. I light up the ancestral shrine, too. And I lie back on the floor again, my body against the earth—well, as well as I can on the second floor—and the arms are there.

Many of the generations nearest me were urban and rural poor: hard-working Protestant Christians, many with emotionally abusive upbringings, lots of stress, subsistence mentalities, and more. I have had a problematic view of these recent generations for quite some time, though at times I have tried to acknowledge their perspectives. After all, my dad’s dad was born in 1913—born in the midst of World War I, too old for World War II, living through the Great Depression and World War II as a skilled laborer, but mostly a hard-working man. His parents were alcoholics who lived in a shanty town, and down the road, there were lynchings. Many of them. And so on in a similar manner on my mom’s side. Hard working families, in general, but poor, often authoritarian, and, I think, ridden by a persistent sense of desperation and fear.

At some earlier point in my life and practice, I probably would’ve been freaked out by them and their arms on me, but I knew these were the nearer generations. I just knew. And I knew there were, further back, ancestors with better awareness and more aligned with where I would like my life to go. These ancestors holding me back were worried about how I wanted to go, do, and live in ways that resolved into a call: No, dangerous, be like us, stay.

They seemed rather…I can’t say feral, but maybe numbed mentally.

I spoke with them—or, I tried to weave a story about who I could be from where we had come from and where we had come from before them. I called to my Blackfoot line—it’s somewhere back along my dad’s grandmother—and back to those ancestors I know historically in Britain and then back mythically into Wales, Scotland, Ireland.

I rose up, sat cross-legged after a point, and I started to try to meditate. Perhaps, though, I meditated my way into a trance, to see where I would go. After a bit, I found myself in my Grandma’s (my mom’s mom) house, and I recognized it was the house from a recurrent dream locale I described in “Dream Land”:

But, for these recurring dream locales, they vary widely. For example, I realized that I had often dreamt of the house my grandmother and several of my aunts and my favorite cousin had lived in. It was also the house my mom had grown up in. I had dreamt of walking or being driven down the road leading to it [often]. I had dreamt of being in the house, in the yard, and more. All of this is fairly typical and expected. What got my attention one night was when I was in this dream-Grandma’s-house and recognized, after waking up, that there was a whole separate, extra room—a separate dining room behind completely out-of-place glass doors, with curtains in the back that led deeper into the house. I realized, while journaling, that this extra dining room had always been there in dreams of the house—or often enough to seem such—though I hadn’t gone deeper past those curtains until this one night.

In that dream, I had ventured back into dark passages that I had a hard time seeing in, and any attempt at making light from a flashlight or phone light proved mostly useless. I had found my way with my sister, in the dream, to a shop run by some folks who seemed annoyed people like us had shown up. Pushing a bit deeper, I came to a cabinet or closet that opened into pitch black darkness that I could tell continued on, but I woke up at that point.

As I sat in “meditative trance,” I was there in the house, ventured back behind the curtains, and there was Hermanubis. Unlike before where I couldn’t really penetrate the darkness, he held his torch aloft, and I could see well enough to follow him. Tip: Let such a guide go before you so you can see! I kinda had to see that in practice. But, we moved through the hallways easily and quickly. As we moved to the shop area, the shopkeepers seemed to panic about Hermanubis showing up, and they bailed. We continued to the cabinet, and he opened and led me into a new space.


Hermanubis (photographed by “Colin,” CC BY 3.0)

We moved through underground catacombs, dusty and pitch black other than for his torch. I was reminded in part of Jung’s dream that he describes in Memories, Dreams, Reflections wherein he descends lower and lower into the earth and into deeper and deeper time. Hermanubis refused to speak—I had the sense it would diminish his role, or this was not a time for him to speak. He brought me to a skeletal figure with tattered clothing. I roused the figure, and it was my father’s grandmother, our ancestral link to the Blackfoot ancestral line. And skeletal great-grandmother asks me to find an image that’s sacred to the Blackfoot, add it in the ancestral shrine, and she and they will do what they can.

Now, let me be clear here: I’m not claiming some kind of Blackfoot cultural heritage. I’ve never gone around claiming to be Blackfoot, and whatever comes from this doesn’t mean I become Blackfoot or have some special dispensation from my Blackfoot ancestors. But, they are there in my ancestral line, pretty much entirely ignored, and they offer a potentially uplifting presence within my ancestral line. Unless living Blackfoot decide to do anything more on their own initiative, then I ain’t gonna start trying to Blackfoot anything. That said, I am planning on offering them some actual sage and sweetgrass with the specific intention that “This is for you. In honor for you. I would appreciate your consideration and help.” I don’t even know how much great-grandma was Blackfoot and how much otherwise western European. You see, while I know my great-grandpa’s name on that side (Joseph or Joe), I don’t know if my dad ever mentioned hers. So, I don’t even know her name. Or didn’t.

I tell her I will do so, and she offers her blessing.

Hermanubis leads me on into bright sunlight and fields. I think I recognize this place—I call it the Shining Plains, and I come across tents with banners flying in the wind, and I meet older ancestors from the European lines. There’s mention of the “faerie” ones, of the ancestors who sailed on the seas or in the flooded lands about Britain. All of this is vaguely aligned with previous visionary and mythical UPG I’ve had. After a point, Hermanubis and I retrace our way, and I come out.

Now, at first, this was just an intense but not earthshaking trance experience. I think it’s easy to expect something far too Hollywood, and if you don’t get that, then you feel like it didn’t work. I get on the computer, go looking for Blackfoot images or symbols that might be what great-grandma pointed me to. Before long, though, I find Chief Mountain, and I think, “That’s it.” I print off a 5×7, order some incense, and put the photo over on the ancestral shrine in a temporary position until I can frame it.


Chief Mountain

I have the sense that something shifts somewhere.

From here, I went poking around for other photos and ancestor-related information. I’ve done this periodically over the years, often with little real success. I can go back to several of the more famous members of the family—a bishop, an anti-cardinal, knights and baronets, marrying into the House of Stuart, and so on. I’ve found a vague thread that there’s probably something in the legendarium for Gwynned.

I suddenly start finding all sorts of things, unlike ever before.

I find that the bishop I know of recently had a new statue installed at a particular institution.

I find a hill named after my dad’s side of the family that’s on the edge of the ancient kingdom of Rheged, and it’s a bit like finding a smaller, more intimate version of Chief Mountain. I snag a photo someone took looking out from under dark shaded trees on that hill that’s an ancient, unexcavated hillfort. The Rheged connection directly links with some of that previous UPG that’s Mabinogion related for me, even as I also see links with one fellow’s theories about Merlin, of all mythical persons. And all that just sort of feeds the mythical ancestral line, which is important, I think, if you’re gonna witch or wizard. I immediately thought of what someone said about Paul Weston’s work with the Glastonbury Zodiac: Even if it’s not “true,” it has that feeling like it should be.

Despite having looked in the past, I suddenly find my great-grandfather’s birth and death information and relations, including his parents, but also my great-grandmother, Lillie. I also find the names of my grandpa’s siblings—I didn’t even know he had any, if that tells you anything about how rubbish my family’s ancestral attention has been—and I find a photo of Grandpa and his brother when they were young(er), probably around World War II.

I decide to prod about my mom’s line, as well, which ultimately links back to ancient royalty and such in Gwynned. Of course, if you go back far enough, everyone’s related to royalty. However, what synchs for me is that this particular excursion uncovers my own personal dead, ancestral magician: Owain Glendwr, of Welsh independence but also Henry IV, part 1 Shakespearean fame.

Now, there’s a long pedigree to calling up the ghosts of dead magicians. As Frank Klaasen observed (and quoted by Al Cummins here):

…in the late 1560s Humphrey Gilbert employed the demon Azazel to call up the ghosts of a select group of magicians: Adam, Job, Solomon, Roger Bacon, and Cornelius Agrippa. A mere three decades after his death, Agrippa had attained a position next to the greatest reputed magicians of the ancient and Christian eras. If the calling up of Agrippa’s ghost is a little surprising, the estimation in which Gilbert held Agrippa is not. Among the second generation of Renaissance writers on magic, his is unquestionably the most influential and colorful. His great work on magic, De Occulta Philosophia, became an instant classic in the library of occult learning. The work won him a place on the indices of Venice, Milan and Rome in 1554, as well as in the processes of the Holy Office at Fruili. More telling, however, is the shadow he cast in the library of magic. Within twenty years of Agrippa’s death, his restless ghost was already present in the form of pseudonymous works printed under Agrippa’s name. His notoriety and influence in the world of sixteenth-century occultism are also well attested in manuscripts of magic… no other Renaissance occult writer was quoted, extracted, or cross-referenced with such frequency. Agrippa’s project is therefore central to our understanding of magic…

While the historical Glendwr may or may not have been a magician, he very quickly became one in myth and legend:

Give me leave
To tell you once again that at my birth
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,
The goats ran from the mountains, and the herds
Were strangely clamorous to the frighted fields.
These signs have mark’d me extraordinary;
And all the courses of my life do show
I am not in the roll of common men.
Where is he living, clipp’d in with the sea
That chides the banks of England, Scotland, Wales,
Which calls me pupil, or hath read to me?
And bring him out that is but woman’s son
Can trace me in the tedious ways of art
And hold me pace in deep experiments.
… I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
… Why, I can teach you, cousin, to command
The devil. (Shakespeare, Henry IV, part 1 3.1)

I suddenly have an ancestral dead magician, made more legendary by Shakespeare. And while modern critics think Shakespeare is mocking Glendower in these scenes, I think he comes off rather well in comparison to Hotspur, and he’s a wizard who has the sense to avoid the clusterfuck the conspirators against Henry IV blunder into. And he’s still one of the legendary figures waiting to wake up in Britain, along with Arthur and others.

So, it’s not so much just the visionary trance experience that moved me, struck me: it’s the avalanche of ancestral synchronicities that came immediately afterward and as I fulfilled the request Lillie made of me in that trance.

I don’t know why all this stuff happened then and not a month ago or 20 years ago. In some ways, I feel like the answer to why then isn’t particularly important. I could theorize that I found ways of thinking and feeling towards these experiences and something shifted, like tumblers in a lock, but I’ve presumably been working on that lock for some time. But, suffice it to say, I managed to move something at that level of my life and spiritual reality, though there’s not really a distinction there.

Meanwhile, I have spent the afternoon making new arrangements in my ancestral shrine. Also, Hermanubis is so getting some love soon.

Featured Image: The Forest of Arden (1888/1908) by Albert Pinkham Ryder

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