Hammer the First
She hands me a tiny white box. I look at it, the gold lettering of the logo for Pathways, our local metaphysical shop, glimmering in the candlelight. It is the night of my first-degree initiation into my family’s coven, and now that the ritual is over, we are gathered around the coffee table altar in the living room of the house where I grew up exchanging presents. I slide the top off the box. Inside, resting on a pillow of spun fibers, is a silver sigil attached to a slim black cord.
[ Today we welcome once again guest writer Tamilia Reed. Reed is a devotional polytheist, spirit-worker, mystic, rune reader, Witch, and traveler of the otherworlds. Her spiritual work centers on building strong relationships with the denizens of this and other worlds, while seeking an intimate understanding of the magical ties that join all beings. You can find Reed’s writing on her personal blog at Wandering Woman Wondering, at Wayfaring Woman via Agora, or at Daughters of Eve: Pagan Women of Color Speak.]
The Völuspá (the Wise-Woman’s Prophecy) is the first poem in the Poetic Edda. The Poetic Edda along with the Prose Edda and multiple sagas form the main body of Norse mythology.
In a matter of weeks, I will be getting on a plane to England. It is a part of my good fortune that I occasionally get to go searching for my ghosts; in this case, I will be looking for the ashes of one of my dead forbears, Deryck Alldriht, who founded what would become my coven and then promptly disappeared from the lives of everyone who knew him in America. I don’t know what I will find once I start digging. I hope to learn something more of who Deryck was – what led him into the Craft, to America, to his grave – but I could just as easily find myself staring at an anonymous graveyard in a few weeks as ignorant as before. This is a problem with quests, and questions: we never really know where they end. As I prepare for this new spectral investigation, I think back to Iceland, two years ago now, the last time I went hunting for the dead who have shaped my faith: in that case, Egill Skallagrimsson, a far older shade than Deryck Alldriht.
I hold in my hands a skull. It has the same terra cotta color as a flower pot, and the same kind of weight. White paint has been flecked across its surface; sigils have been painted. The lines rise up from the surface of the skull such that with closed eyes I can still run my fingers across the surface and know whose vévé I am tracing. Start at the base of the skull, the cross flanked by coffins: that’s Baron Samedi.
It begins with a woman holding a candle. She is walking around the room, a guide for the priestess, who is casting the circle for Samhain. But don’t look at the priestess just yet; hear her, yes, hear the words that begin every circle in our tradition, but watch the woman with the candle. The first bit of magick walks with her – for she is not only a woman with a candle, but an Evening Star, a psychopomp, the leader on a path down into the underworld. In the double-sight of ritual, she is both physical and mythical, both our friend and an unfamiliar star.