The Unexpected House|
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Tuesday, October 31st, 2006
|Halloween, Part I: Saint Ray
1. The evening before "All Saints' Day," hence "Eve of All Hallows": "All Hallow
ing," or "Hallowe'en." When I was growing up, half a century ago, we still wrote it as a contraction, but today it's just Halloween.
2. Not, alas, the number two holiday in retail sales, right behind Christmas (snopes.com informs us): still behind Valentine's Day (natch), Mothers and Fathers Days (oh, okay), and even Easter (really? -- are they including clothing sales? (them nineteenth century bonnets, no doubt), or just eggs and dye and candy, and baskets with weird green stuff in 'em?). Still, #6 ain't so bad, with costumes and cards and candy amounting to multibillions in sales every year.
3. Kids are born magicians. Nobody has to teach them to be so. The world tries to talk us out of Magick pretty quickly, though, so most of us come to require counter-influences to reassure us we had it right the first time. For my generation of Americans that was Bible stories, for starters (if only on TV), and other such grimoires -- A Child's Garden of Verses
, Mother Goose
, Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and the like -- and then movies, particularly those from Disney Studios. Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland; on to Mary Poppins, all of which -- particularly Mary Poppins! -- in turn led back to the written stories behind them. Mary Poppins in the Park
, Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane
. All those library books; some more SF than fantasy, some concealing the fact that they were "magical" at all (any Danny Dunn fans reading this?). Yet all of them positively glittering with Magick.
4. And Halloween was the magical holiday, of course. Christmas was magical, too, but that was God's, and/or Santa's, Magick; Halloween was the night your own
Magick was let loose. Invoke your inner nature to visible appearance! -- your highest aspiration, or deepest fear...or just whatever you fancied. Big secret: the fuddy-duddies have it exactly right, of course: Halloween teaches you that you can be free. It is exactly the abomination they fear it is. That is why God so loves and blesses Halloween.
5. Another Big Secret: Halloween was actually invented in September 1962 EV by that fellow in our icon, St. Ray Douglas Bradbury, in his book Something Wicked This Way Comes
. He started it this way (and forgive the "boys" part, 'cause whatever distinctions there be it goes just as insistently for girls):First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.
But you take October, now. School's been on a month and you're riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you'll dump on old man Prickett's porch, or the hairy-ape costume you'll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.
But one strange wild dark long year, Halloween came early....
That last sentence, by the 'bye, ends forever the fastidiousness that places mandatory commas between adjectives. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, or however Emerson put it. :)
6. So, yeah, there it is: Something Wicked This Way Comes
(the book, not the movie). And Dandelion Wine
, too. Glittering with Magick.
7. Until you come to find, as St. Delmore Schwartz had it, that "in dreams begin responsibilities": that Magick is not only sober fact, it is the only sober fact.
To be continued. :D
93 93/93 -- AJ
|Halloween, Part II: Trick or Treat
It's not all about freedom and Magick, though -- nor yet about your spookiness being propitiated by candy offerings from your neighbors. Halloween is also a way of confronting fear. I first really saw this aged eleven, Halloween 1966 EV. That was the year they first broadcast the "Peanuts" Halloween special, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" (from which comes our icon)...but it was also the year I moved back to Los Angeles from the middle west, making the abrupt and scary transition from a safe, amiable bedroom community to the mean streets of the Walteria district of Torrance, California. My mom actually warned me that I was probably too old to Trick or Treat that year -- hey, I damn near got beat up for carrying a lunch box, instead of a paper sack, the first day of school! -- and frankly, I wasn't looking for candy: I just wanted to dress up as The Green Hornet and go out being spooky with my friends.
Not that we didn't try for candy, mind you; got some, too. But people kept asking if we weren't a little old for this, so pretty quickly we just roamed the night streets, bein spookay.
As it turned out, though, the streets featured spookier kids than us, that night: in particular a gang of them, who invited us to join them so they could pound us. Deciding flight, however shameful, was the better part of valor (we were three against perhaps seven,* and they were Big Kids), we tried to stroll away...and without warning, pow pop crack, we were struck by hard objects that broke on contact and splattered nasty stuff.
Oh, okay, right. Eggs. We were being egged.
It was awful, and thus ended Trick or Treating for yours truly.
Walteria really was pretty scary, not just on Halloween but year round: random beatings and thefts (I had a 007 attache case stolen from me on the street, minutes after having bought it from a friend, about which nobody seemed able to do a thing); kids (including me) arming themselves with dog chains (because the cops couldn't arrest you for having them, though I don't know how I would have explained needing a dog chain when I had no dog); the occasional zip-gun, manufactured in shop class from the innards of a percolator ("coffee machine," to you younguns, though they were more like self-brewing coffee carafes back then) -- they fired real .22 caliber bullets; "fired," that is, when they didn't simply detonate them, injuring you instead of your enemy.
I stuck to dog chains: among other things, if somebody disarmed you you wouldn't get shot with your own weapon. Then 1968 came along, and I put on love beads (okay, my mom's blue plastic costume necklace, but close enough!) and stopped fighting, man.
Still got slapped on, but only once more. The bully seemed to feel diminished that I was taking the slaps for a Principle.**
(It helped that my dad drove up just then, too -- astonishing me: my parents were divorced, and he'd just unexpectedly come by, and driven to the school hoping to find me. Talk about your magical saves!)
Anyway, you can see there's another side to Halloween: the side that urges proper caution. "Do not raise anything you cannot also put down"...and worse yet, there are normal, quotidian, even mundane evils, that every day do great and ugly harm. So keep up your banishings, O Mage! There is Magick to confront the darkness, but there is also darkness to confront.
Only the dead are safe. It is dangerous to be alive. BOO!
^v^ ^v^ ^v^
Worth it, though. As a long-ago poet friend put it, "a jiggerful worth the pain."
(She was so cool. :) )
To be continued. :D
93 93/93 -- AJ
* I originally wrote "ten." They seemed like ten. Or fifty. ;)
** I later learned some martial arts, by the way, but without the philosophical part. By the time I got good enough that I could really hurt people, if need be, I realized I didn't want to hurt people. Sometimes in blue plastic love beads begin responsibilities, too. :/
|Halloween, Part III: Magick Rising
You can't catalogue everything that fed your magical side, and if I start listing books and shows ("Twilight Zone"!) (comics!, especially Marvel Comics!) (sorry) we'll be here all week...but I can't believe I forgot to mention Disneyland: born right around the time I was, and quite possibly my very first experience of Magick* (in 3D and sensurround, no less!). Yeah, I know there are people Disneyland and its offspring just don't connect with; I'm quite sure it helped to first visit as an infink, when my parents were still together. Anyway, around the same time I was miserably making it through my Halloween egging (and general quest to survive Walteria), Disneyland opened both its Fantasyland Magic Store with REAL TAROT CARDS (not that I got any, but they sure looked cool), and its Haunted Mansion.** Short version: when I get a bazillion dollars, I'm gonna build a corridor with permanent thunderstorms "outside" its "windows." You just see if I don't. ;)
But that's not what I wanted to write about this time.
Somewhere in there, y'see -- right around puberty, for a lot of us -- a love of magical stories and shows and music and stuff begins to edge into...well, you know, Magick: as in, What if something like this silliness were Really True? 1968 EV was a time of astonishing changes anyway, in America and elsewhere around the world, and it changed the whole course of my own life: my mom was able to ditch her lower-paying secretarial jobs for the first of her higher-paying personal assistant jobs,*** and this meant moving us from scarifying Walteria to L.A.'s privileged west side. Let me tell you, buckaroos, privilege -- even piggybacked privilege, gained by serving wealthy masters -- changes everything, and even at thirteen I knew it: the intensified schoolwork nearly wrecked my theretofore glowing academic record, but by heaven, it makes a difference when you're surrounded by legions of the college-bound.
And that same summer, as it happens, Magick started to rise in my own life.
So you get J.R.R. Tolkien, and then "Peter Saxon"'s "Guardians" novels, and by 1970 or so?, around the time I'm co-editing Marvel Comics' official fanzine, there's Coven 13
and Man, Myth and Magic
coming out right on the newsstands! (the latter with the participation of Kenneth Grant, btw)...and then my dad, who's writing a book on such matters, gives me a deck of the Rhine ESP cards (you know the ones: star, circle, wavy lines...typical conscious mind test for a largely unconscious ability, a bunch of very similar line drawings; the Thoth Tarot deck works bunches better for the purpose). And in 1971-72 there's a wonderfully cheesy TV show called "The Sixth Sense," starring Gary Collins (finally explaining our icon -- that's his head shot) -- which had several pretty cool episodes before Harlan Ellison, and Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana of "Star Trek" fame, ditched it, and it went south. I adored that show, in fact: its beautiful original theme, especially played over shots of "Dr. Michael Rhodes's" office complex (really the exec offices at Universal, if memory serves): that prismatic fountain sparkling in the sunlight, next to the lovely striated white highrise office tower....****
And by heaven, for a while it really looked like Magick, and Love and Freedom generally, were gonna catch on worldwide, no matter what The Bad Guys did. 1973 and Watergate and the System finally drawing a line: thus far and no farther, Tricky Dick! -- the same year I wrote, and with several friends directed and audiotaped, a Halloween Special for KPFK, 90.7 FM, then and now radical lefty radio for the City of the Angels. People seemed to like it, even at 1:00 in the morning (hence the title I gave it, "Thirteen O'Clock").
And by then I'm eighteen turning nineteen, and it's time for Magick to go, right?
I mean, good stuff continued to happen. In 1974 at Halloween, in fact, the same year they broadcast what I thought was Eric Burdon narrating Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher" (and have never been able to find a trace of again). Girlfriend Bell (Oh God don't ask) brought her sweet nephew Jerry over -- he who could belch the entire phrase "HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!" in one continuous and quite nervous-making belch -- and he wanted to see the spooky walk at the side of our building, and he talked me into taking him, and the lights were out (thanks to the time change, probably) and I wanted to go back and he said Just a little further and -- pure intuition time, here -- I happened to have my hand on his shoulder when I felt him vanish.
The next thing I know I'm lying on my back in darkness and the smell of dirt and leaves, embarrassed to be talking to myself. No, to be sort of moaning, in fact. So I stop. Jerry is still up on the lip of the dropoff, voice scared, calling down to see if I'm okay; quavery voice making it clear he thinks I'm not. "Yeah, yeah!, I'm fine," I say, and pretty quickly am able to rise and discover I really am just fine.
So there's your Sixth Sense in action, maybe...and if it was just some combination of the usual five, that was okay, too. Apparently I had grabbed him as he fell, and tossed him behind me, back onto the path we'd come by -- succeeding in the process in pitching myself into the wide and deep hole he'd started to fall into, invisible in that blackness. But hey, all's well that ends well.
Bottom line: I kept seeing suggestions that something like ESP or Magick or whatever could be real; and increasingly became too much the hardheaded mechanist materialist to believe it.
Just two more posts to go. Bless those of you who care! :D
93 93/93 -- AJ
* Except for the time my dad used it to save my life, just before my third birthday. Yes, I'm serious. See Layton Drive
, which also details a number of my other "magical" experiences: the Indian guy with the wolf who visited Pali High, for example.
** Though my alltime fave might be the late, great Mighty Microscope ride. Once again, see: http://www.atommobiles.com/
*** To rich folk, then a famous movie and TV star. She stayed with the latter until her remarriage, to a wealthy man, in 1973. While I walked away from an inheritance which never materialized in any event, that marriage accounts for my having received the education I did. Talk about life-changing; I am grateful every day.
**** The series only survives in mutilated form, chopped into half-hours and included in reruns of "Rod Serling's Night Gallery"; recognizable from a title card announcing, "Sixth Sense episodes created by Anthony Lawrence." Serling hated this inclusion (and who can blame him?), but it's still touching (for me) to see 'em.
|Halloween, Part IV: "O Great Pumpkin, where ARE you?!"
The quote comes from Linus Van Pelt, of course, of Charles Schulz's "Peanuts." For the three people on earth who don't know, Linus spends every Halloween waiting, in an ecstasy of mingled religious hope and despair, in the "most sincere" pumpkin patch he can find: praying that the Great Pumpkin will choose that patch above all others, and rise from it to reward him.
It has never happened. In fact, it will never happen, and everyone knows it. That's why the gag works. Charles Schulz was serious, though not dogmatic, about his (Christian) religion...which makes it sort of curious, and not a little touching, that he provided the world one of its most archetypal examples of disappointed belief. I raised my voice unto you, O Lord
(says Linus, in effect), and you were nowhere to be found. And yet I maintain my faith.
We find it touching, I think -- I did, anyway -- because it is so true to life, so human.
Brief serious moment of my own: I think that's how the majority of people, including untold numbers of very religious people, see religion itself. Indeed, I am quite convinced that's how a large percentage of (the tiny number of) "real magicians" actually view Magick.
No believer in Magick at the time, I certainly felt that way at the end of winter 1977 EV...when I decided, with no rancor and little disappointment, that unless The Universe could point out a Way to me, with absolute clarity and all deliberate speed, I was ready to stop living.
Funny thing: by then, aged 22, your formerly (if eclectically -- e.g., I relied a lot on the I Ching
) religious AJ was a scientific atheist, a mechanist materialist of the most relentless stripe...and yet, had seen repeated proof that some
thing existed beyond the usual material assumptions. I wanted to understand (I told a friend) what that thing was that told you exactly what to study, right before the exam. Intuition, whatever it was. There had, I thought, to be a rational explanation.
Long story short, the usual tunnel vision of human disappointments (in particular involving a relationship, and make a note to yourself right now: NO relationship is EVER worth killing yourself over
) coalesced with the more general philosophical disappointment of deciding that all was brute matter, rolling on unattended to its inevitable doom...and cast my eyes longingly toward oblivion, as the preferred outcome: I decided, quite dispassionately (and perhaps hoping only to get a sort of perverse revenge by imposing my own timetable?), that I would literally rather die than be trapped within the pointless grind of material limitations.
Boy, did I have a surprise coming.
So I sat there in that pumpkin patch: dutifully waiting for the Great Pumpkin, expecting nothing. And damned if the Great Pumpkin didn't rise to answer me, after all.
Our wrap-up post will be along a little later. Bet you're almost as relieved as I am. :D
93 93/93 -- AJ
|Halloween, Part V, Conclusion: The Unexpected House
On March 19, 1977 EV, I stepped firmly onto The Path, and have never looked back. The relief was absolutely overwhelming, the decision quite literally saving my life. I can't believe that next March will be the thirtieth anniversary of that decision -- but nostalgic old phart or no, I won't bore you with the details, doubtless not so very different from your own choice. I'll just say it was a Christian path at first, involved a group at first, and has undergone some Really Major Changes over the years...while still remaining the same, essential Path.
That's another of the Big Secrets: as mentioned here before, I strongly believe that despite the staggering differences in our understandings and practices, all those striving on the Path are approaching a single, central reality.
Heck, I think everybody is, rightly considered. :)
Perhaps you know something of the ceremonialists' Golden Dawn-derived attributions, such that "Magus, beth
, house" means something to you. Fact is, you're the Magus of your own "house," your own cosmos. Don't believe in Magick? Fair enough! But begging your pardon, IMO (and I won't labor the point), whatever you consciously believe, you are inescapably already a magician.
Magick is the very substance of the universe. We are all magicians -- even, maybe especially, those who don't think we are. We engage in one constant ritual, through our whole lives: invoke, banish, invoke, banish. The only question is what we choose to invoke, what to banish. Longtime readers know my advice: invoke the qualities you'd like to see; banish the ones you wish would go away.*
IMO, the single biggest roadblock to your practicing Magick consciously, rather than unconsciously (and unintentionally, hence with choppy results) is your own conviction: that it can't, or shouldn't, be done, or done by you, or whatever. Such a conviction doesn't, and can't, stop Magick operating in your life. Such a conviction externalizes itself automatically; is, itself, Magick operating in your life.
Given, then, that you're constantly "casting spells"...would you prefer they be blessings, or curses?
Just a thought.
And, hey, say it's all nonsense. Certainly it won't hurt
you any to try to manifest more of the qualities you'd like to see in your world, and less of the ones you wish would go away. No harm done, right?
If you find yourself on The Path as I did, you'll be drawn to specific techniques proper to your own work. Lots of people have written about these techniques, not least on the web. I may even share some here, from time to time. Please feel free to do the same! :) And if, OTOH, you find the whole notion of The Path just ludicrous -- hey, you won't hear any blame from me. I once felt the same myself.
Just put my nonsense down to Halloween, and scroll right on past.
So there, at long last, is my promised "How did you get into Magick, anyway?" post, and senryu
will be home any minute, wanting me to get ready to Trick 'r' Treat. So I thank those few of you who bothered with this for your patient indulgence -- and wish all of you, tonight and always, the HAPPIEST of HALLOWEENS!!! :D
93 93/93 -- AJ
* Longtime readers have also seen the first exercise I learned in how to do this. It's in the extensive "memories" section linked on my Profile page, saved right here: http://ajrose93.livejournal.com/31214.html
Though I mostly write fiction, I've also done a nonfiction Student Handbook
on these topics. Sooner or later I'll have to actually plug my own (self-published) work here. ;)