In the Name of Gods and the Answers

witch-circleI am a spiritual hypochondriac. Every religion I study, I am, if only for a day or two. Here is the answer, there is the answer. The answer is everywhere and I am but one soul. Pietà.

If I had all the money and all the time in the world, I would get a degree in divinity from a school like Vanderbilt. There, the degree is not based in any one religion. In their halls, artistic renderings of Ba’al share cork boards with Campus Crusade for Christ’s event lists.

While at Vanderbilt and a humdrum English major, I only set foot in the Divinity School once. I wandered their library looking for something relevant to Spenser and St. George’s Error the Dragon. I found demon books there, forgotten in the corners. I promised myself I would go back, but time and literature got away from me.

I was told about Ba’al’s cork boards years later by a Wiccan witch. We were on the way to a celebration of the Wiccan holiday, Imbolc, that heralds the first stirrings of Spring in early February. Out of college for a couple of years, but still skulking around Nashville, I was also a Wiccan witch at the time, and had been for several months—near a personal record. The Wiccan witch and her redheaded Unitarian Pagan companion were both students at the Divinity School and were both due for a Masters of Divinity at the end of Spring. My envy was thicker than the windows-up breath, body heat, and Loreena McKennitt music blaring in their rattletrap car.

In the name of gods and the answers, I had jumped into that car with two strangers and sped out into the dark toolie bushes that lie only ten minutes from the city in any direction. We headed to another Wiccan witch’s farm where we were to drink and ritualize. I was a fool for fickle zealotry.

At the farm, in the night, on a full moon, circled around a bonfire set in the middle of a frozen cow pasture, I moved a bottle of sacramental wine from here to over there so it would be out of the way of our spiral dance. The High Priestess, after her spiel, stepped back and knocked it over. Holy holy holy ran out into the ice and dead grass. Her look set to strike me a warty toad.

After ritual, feasting in the farmhouse, I gesticulated wildly, talking over the ritual with one of the coveners. Mid-wordy woosh, she said, “I’m going to go over to that table now and visit some other people.” She left me sitting alone with the social fail of a hundred lifetimes. Perhaps witching wasn’t for me.

A few days after, the head witch and High Priestess bottle-toppler left a message on my answering machine that the witch pack decided I might be good coven material after all. By then I was Hellenistic. I had a statuette of Demeter in my bookcase with candles and incense laid at her feet. I had my face and brain stuck, for hours a day, in badly written, self-published books on modern Hellenismos. I never called her back.

Though today I am a self-dubbed mystic all about Huxley, his Perennial Philosophy, and finding a non-peyote way to walk through The Doors of Perception, I regret having blown off the coven. One can be a witch and almost anything else. I’ve aged and realized that although hopping into cars with strangers may not be brilliant, even with gods onlooking, spiritual two-fers and all-fers are possible and, perhaps, desirable. One soul pulled up, down, third and fourth dimensions is maybe a merry soul. Hallelujah. Amen.

About M. Ashley

Essayist and poet, my work has been rejected by some of the finest journals in America. Fortunately, it also gets accepted from time to time and has appeared in equally fine journals such as Word Riot, Inlandia, Brew City Magazine, and SageWoman among others.. In 2002, I was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for Vanderbilt University. For no good reason, I possess an unnecessarily dark humor which is why being third generation California Inland Empirian delights me so. My gods are weird. I once received $350 for writing a smartassed essay on “why the wise use of water is important in my daily life”. I am undoubtedly the Greek god Hermes’ special snowflake. I’m pretty sure I got into college via a series of fortuitous clerical errors. When I had to grow up and get a real job, I decided against it and stayed a writer. I have worked many odd—and I mean odd—jobs to support my habit: Commercial writer for country music hopefuls, resume massager, WalMart fitting room attendant and switchboard operator, telephone psychic.
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