I’ve come at this a little metaphorically before, but I want to address it more directly. When I talk about the materiality of the witch’s work, of the concrete alliances with the place and its ecosystem, that necessarily implies that the witch’s work is local. And it is. It needs to be emphasized, though, that it is a local operation undertaken with a cosmic force.
Ceremonial magic tends to make a stronger claim on the cosmic, what with its emphasis on the planets and stars as forces governing their operations quite literally from above. Now consider for a moment what those planets and stars are. While they seem to exert a subtle force on our spiritual experience, they are themselves material beings. The elements that compose them are not different in kind than the elements that compose the stuff of this Earth. They are subject to the operations of time, to transformation and erasure.
The forces they exert on our spiritual world depends upon their being rooted in that temporal world. While they are especially durable compared to the lifetime of a person or a tree, they are not eternal. The forces that are strung upon and between them have a lifetime, too. What we learn in the pressure cooker of a lifetime about contingency and necessity applies to the whole of cosmos.
The ups and downs of a life reflect in rapid time the cycles of creation and extinction operating on all things that exist. The alliances made with the forces of the earth open the door to the cosmos that undoes us. This is one of the things Lovecraft got partially right as he recoiled from modernity. He understood the ways in which it undid the human scale of his life without being able to translate himself into the cosmic scale, except by way of fantasies either of dissolution or liberation.
Those alliances aren’t made with things far away. They are made through working the stuff of your life. The connection to the cosmic opens through the day to day operations that compose it. The blooming of a flower, the toppling of a dead tree, the time we spend with those we love and those we don’t, all comes together to provide the gateway to the forces underlying the cosmos.
The Great Mother is a symbol for the materiality of creation, a point of interface, and that is at least one meaning of her headless expressions. The absence of a head acknowledges the inability to bring that scale to bear in a fashion we can fully comprehend.
The spirits of that work are the manifestation of those forces in our lives, the forces of the cosmos operating close to hand, and though we often give them a human visage in our work with them, on the other side they are something else.
Much like ourselves.
* * *
After working through this, I found myself overcome with the memory of Fred Hampton. He was murdered before I was even born, but the loss of him and the injustice that took root in that murder still burns. I paced and I cried over it. Hampton’s murder is just one root in a tangled mass of injustice. Sympathies like these have a terrible force, they course back and forth in time like blood to and from the heart, threatening to engulf us all. The bullets in his wall, the bullets in his body, those cry out with the bullets in Michael Brown’s body.
All that blood which can’t be put back into circulation, I pray that we can yet staunch the flow, find some way to ward off more wounds to this body most impolitic. If we are to do that, though, we need to make potent the healing sympathies that have been overwhelmed by injustice, to realize opportunities in the present, for the future, that were nearly obliterated in the past.
It may start with trying to reimagine in words what could have been as a way of magnifying what is so hard to see now. It cannot stop with that. Without some place for those sympathies to manifest, that leaves us with nothing but broken dreams.
That’s not good enough.