Smoking Dope With The Devil
Article ID: 13802
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,798
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Author: River Valley Magus
Posted: April 18th. 2010
Times Viewed: 4,410
It has always seemed to me that the desire to follow the path of the magician or witch or (fill in the blank) is something you are born with. Otherwise I don’t know where it comes from. I have simply always felt that way. Being raised a Baptist, or anyhow some kind of fundamentalist is a common experience with many of us, but it took me until way after when it should have, to be honest with myself about my interests, and to pursue them. (My parents still don’t know about any of it.)
I am 47 years old. Seriously. I have been interested in magic since I was a child. I read everything I could get my hands on from an early age, and began practicing as a solitary sometime in my late twenties. I remember being somehow surprised when my then-wife was violently opposed to my interest in the occult, threatening to leave me when she discovered me in the bedroom trying to decipher a new tarot deck I’d just bought. I had thought she might be as curious as I was. Oops. (I used to sneak by this wonderful occult shop in Sacramento on my way home from work in the Bay, buying Robert Anton Wilson books from their shelves and awestruck over the farmer’s co-op aspect of the shop – I now understand they must have supplied the local Santeria or Voudon community as well as the Wiccan and otherwise.)
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30s that I encountered real practicing occultists, a couple who had moved from Oklahoma to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to open a tiny and wonderful (while it lasted) occult shop in town. They started a branch of the Caliphate OTO in Fayetteville, which persists even now though they have moved on.
That was my introduction to ceremonial magic.
Those early times were jolly indeed; we had to drive to Oklahoma City for our initiations, and did so happily. I remember my first initiation like it was yesterday; my best friend and I sat in the living room of our hosts while the new people disappeared one by one into the bedroom where the initiations were taking place, and we sat there with sweaty palms in a panic of anticipation. We briefly debated making a run for it – nobody who left the room was coming back! – but we stuck it out, and I am happy for that.
Egos and relationships and the thousand-and-one dull pricks of everyday life have tended to bring all the best laid plans to naught, sad to say. Sometimes I blame myself – ultimately we are all the directors of our own movies, and although as a child I was always trying to round up my friends to form some sort of secret club or other (my sister can still recite the Green Lanterns oath from our long-ago Green Lantern Club, and she’s 45!) , the small group politics and egos and crap like that are such a turn off I’ve always ended up going home.
The mundane world takes its toll. The landlord of the shop my friends started eventually ran them out, and their marriage collapsed. The wife, who I must say was under tremendous pressure with all her duties to the group, eventually left for greener pastures.
It is hard to find a mate who truly appreciates the beauty and history and intricacies of the Path. I have come close only once (out of three attempts so far; all I can say is I keep trying.) Most times they find your efforts childish or weird or whatever, and tolerate you at best until they don’t. And off you go.
I have continued nonetheless to look and try. I formed a small group very briefly about 3 years ago, up in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, called the Green Man Group – very eclectic, which lasted for a few months until various relationships within the group imploded, and then there was nobody really to meet together. My wife was one of the implosions.
I spent most of 2007 in New Orleans and discovered the beauty and majesty of the New Orleans Voodoo religion, via the Isle of Salvation Botanica in the Upper Ninth Ward, Sallie Ann Glassman, Prop. (And no, she doesn’t know I’m writing this.) Although I never participated in their group as an active member, I did know several of them and quizzed them mercilessly and built my own somewhat elaborate voodoo altar in my home, and – it was all good.
I have been practicing a form of solitary voodoo, which is kind of a non sequitur, ever since then, but Arkansas is a long way from New Orleans when you’re talking about voodoo, and anyway despite my past experiences in ceremonial magic, voodoo, and Satanism (ultimately I find myself too nice a guy to be a good Satanist, though many of the ideas of the Left Hand Path resonate in me) , I find myself again and again drawn to Trad Witchcraft, to Wicca, to Gerald Gardner and his counterpart Robert Cochrane, to Doreen Valiente and Victor Anderson and Andrew Chumley and A.R. “Bob” Clay-Egerton, and, despite his online vitriol, Robin Artisson, who writes beautifully.
Now I am living again in the midst of the Bible Belt and I continue to seek fellow kindred souls, wondering if I’ll meet them, ever, wondering if I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time, always wondering. We do what we can with what we have; none of us consciously pick our external circumstances, except in the most obvious ways.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, if you’re reading this, I will tell you for a fact that the only answer is to keep on doing what you are doing, and not to stop. It may seem obvious to you, as it does for me from time to time, that you aren’t going to ever get anywhere with This Stuff, and that you are only risking the rejection of not only co-workers and strangers, but worse, family and friends, by persisting. And that’s a hard nut to crack.
But you are doing something worthwhile, something most people never have the courage to even consider doing, much less to put it into any sort of action. Avoiding getting your ass kicked is important too. Just take heart in those times when things resonate the right way, in your magical path, and you meet a new person or find a new book or a new idea, and realize that from time to time life will flare up and be interesting again to you, and full of promise and mystery and, yes, magic – that counts for something. It gives us all something to shoot for, despite exterior circumstances
I won’t stop the search. The God and Goddess call out to me every day. I keep listening.
River Valley Magus
Location: Clarksville, Arkansas
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