Wednesday, September 30, 2009


My earliest Halloween memories are shopping for costumes at the local Woolworth's. I was about 3 years old and went shopping with my older brothers and mother. Everyone was so excited but I didn't really understand what was happening, I just picked up the excited energy from my siblings and knew something good was going to happen.
I was in for a surprise.
First of all, the store had dedicated two whole aisles to Halloween: costumes, decorations, candy, et al. Anything remotely related to Halloween was there. And, at first, it seemed like a very good thing. There was candy! And things that were silly and a little scary! Candles! And things that smelled good.
Then, I turned the corner (probably looking for my brothers) and came face-to-face with something dreadful: the boxed costumes. Back then, costumes were highly flammable and colorful but basically flat. The costume portion had elements of the character it was imitating. The faces were all basically the same: formed plastic with a slit for the mouth, holes for nostrils, and the eyes were completely cut out. The masks covered just the face and had an elastic string that went behind the head and was adjustable.. for some reason -- the mask never really fit. The boxed set was packaged with a clear cellophane window where the mask sat, staring out at customers with empty eyes. The folded costume was behind the mask.
Gazing down the aisle, all I could see were the soulless, eyeless faces staring at me. Otherwise friendly faces were suddenly frightening: Superman, Batman, Captain Kirk, Bugs Bunny, an astronaut. Frightening faces were downright horrifying: skeleton, witch, ghost.
What's the big deal? These things scared me, possibly scared a lot of kids.. so what? I may have mentioned the closet door of my bedroom opening and closing on its own at night. I may have mentioned what would be inside that door when it opened and, of course, wouldn't be there after the door closed. After that Halloween shopping trip, I woke many nights to the door opening to reveal these costume boxes stacked floor to ceiling, similar to the aisle at Woolworth's. Anything to frighten me, it seems, was fair game for those horrid nights. They seemed to be worse around this time of year...
I faced my fears one time. I got out of bed and walked to the closet. The door had opened itself and presented a dozen costume boxes, face out, floor to ceiling.. I reached out and touched the cellophane of one of the boxex. The eyes seemed to shift and 'look' at me as I ran screaming from my bedroom. When Mom or Dad put me back in bed, the closet was normal with my lone costume box sitting innocently on the top shelf, face up and a shoe box on top of it.
One night I woke to something under the sheets. Looking down, I could recognize the outline of the dreaded box without having to look.. but I did look. Sure enough, the cellophane window was gazing at me under the covers. I screamed in terror, my Dad came in and took the box away, then woke my brothers and asked them who had put the box there while I was asleep. Well, waking them up should have been a clue that they didn't do it.
By the time Halloween came around, I was almost too frightened of my costume to actually wear it. I quickly pulled the mask over my face and proceeded to terrorize anyone nearby who, naturally, couldn't understand why I thought Batman would give them nightmares.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Through the Eyes of a Child

The very earliest memory I have of seeing a guardian spirit or angel was when I was about 3 years old. In the church nursery of all places.
A group of us were playing with a wooden rocker. By turning it over, it became stairs that we could run over. Just as the adults watching us were praising our inventiveness and resourcefulness, one of the other kids tripped and fell. Immediately, a spirit was there and guided his head so that he didn't crack it open; in fact, he wasn't really hurt at all. What could have been a concussion was just a near miss.
I saw the spirit. My friend saw the spirit. The boy who fell did not. The adults did not though they did offer prayers of gratitude that the boy didn't hurt himself. While the rest of the room focused on the boy that fell, my friend and I watched the angel. S/He smiled at us and faded away. In the serious voice that only children seem to have, we talked about seeing the spirit with the boy that fell. He confessed that he used to see them but didn't now that he was growing up.
The spirit was definitely not a ghost. The aura around him/her was different. In retrospect, I believe the spirit assumed a humanoid form so that it would seem 'right' to us -- we knew about angels after all. There was definitely a sense of peace from the spirit. But I still have unanswered questions about this encounter, so many years later.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

While in college, I began to experiment with bending things to my Will. I knew I would have to start small, to convince myself that I could make changes. And, as I grew in ability, I would be able to affect bigger things and make bigger changes. The world was a tapestry and I was learning how to weave.
At least, that was the plan.
One night, I began to expand my Will. It started with a cone of incense. I reached out and began to feel the smoke rising from the cone. When I felt ready, I began to push the smoke first one way, then another. I caused the smoke to stream thinly, to billow thickly, and to form rings. Bending smoke was easy and fun and I spent a few hours trying to get shapes to form; lots of wisps -- no shapes but, overall, I was very pleased.
In reading about totems and guardian spirits and Nature, I had grown frustrated that I could never quite get to a point where I could meet a totem spirit and learn even more about shamanism than any book could teach me. I read about using a medium of some sort to bridge that gap: peyote, pot, LSD, ... I was too clean cut to get mixed up in serious drugs but I wasn't above trying something to help out. Amyl Nitrates were popular recreational drugs at the time, easy to find and easy to use. With a bottle in hand, I began to meditate and, when I could go no further, I hit the poppers.
I was able to go further, yes. I won't write much about it, though. The spirits I saw weren't at all what I expected to see, not human at all. When I finally reached The Cave with totem animals, they acknowledged my presence but otherwise would have nothing to do with me. I had gotten there but not 'properly'. I was devastated. I thought I had done what so many others before me had done?
Another night, I decided I would try again. I prepped, I meditated, I reached a point when I thought I was ready. Suddenly, as I raised the bottle of poppers, something hit the window behind me. I jumped and the fluid went up my nose, burning my sinuses badly. That was the last night I tried doing that ever again.
In fact, I haven't headed back for The Cave since then. Once burned, twice shy? Perhaps. But partly I felt like I was trying to forge a path that really wasn't my own. It was fascinating but it felt forced, like something I was supposed to do versus something I was driven to do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's in the Cards Redux

Having an experience with fortune telling through cards when I was very young, I didn't have another experience with cards (this time it was tarot) until I was in college. My friend, Rebecca, had a deck and gave a reading for me after I expressed an interest in things occult. Then my friend, David, also gave a remarkable reading about the same time. I knew I wanted to know more.
I read an article and looked for, and found, a book on the subject. The book was written in detail, some of it quite esoteric. I knew I needed help and turned to my friends. David gave some suggestions but wasn't interested in attempting to teach someone how to read the cards. Rebecca reluctantly agreed but suggested I find some more books to study; her intention was for me to expand my notions about tarot and not be limited to her ways -- it was a great suggestion.
One early session should have alerted me much sooner that I was on a different path than most.
We began with the Minor Arcana. She asked me what colors I associated with Air? I thought for a moment, even closing my eyes and imagining the sky during a clear day. "Blue!" I suggested, enthusiastically. She suggested I think, instead, of something in the sky. I thought for a moment and said "White!"; for the clouds had turned my clear day a lovely shade of gray/white. No, something else. I thought some more... white could also be stars? or the reflection of the Moon? "Black?" I offered tentatively. A little frustrated, she suggested I think of what makes all the light during the day. "The Sun! Of course! So, let's go with Red for those amazing sunsets!" I believe she was about to cry, both from laughter and frustration. She told me the color associated with Air in the Minor Arcana was Yellow. I actually had to puzzle it out; that was the last color I would have picked for Air.
We went through the other suits with similar results. When we finally ended for the day and I went home, my head was spinning. Surely I would eventually get it? But I struggled with the tarot (and still do, to a degree), trying to make it fit the notions that other people had about those cards.
In recent years, I've grown fond of using playing cards to peer into the unknown, as was done for me when I was just a wee lad.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Power of Gem

In college, I began my in/formal pagan training. Mostly from "free practitioners" and from reading books, I was slowly indoctrinated into religions other than Judeo-Christian. It was during this time that I began working with crystals and other trinkets.
My friend showed me how to use the flow of energy to charge crystals. And that different crystals had different resonances with different properties. I often felt that the references I consulted sometimes got it right but sometimes missed the subtleties in the gems. Some of my favorite stones were pulsing with energies not attributed to them. Which lead to me getting frustrated that a particular crystal was not responding like I expected it to at times.
One of the coolest things was meeting someone who was interested in crystals and letting them 'touch' or touch (depending on their sensitivity) the crystals that I had. It was always a confidence boost to hear them exclaim at how they could easily feel the energies pulsing through the crystals, sometimes from a little bit away, sometimes through my shirt. Sometimes, an insensitive clod would grab the crystal around my neck; it felt like I was being grabbed in a most unpleasant way.
I also purchased a small trinket. It had a skull on the top, a three-sided dagger below, an axe blade on one side, and a strange mesh sphere-like thing on the other side. The whole thing was only about 2 inches on the longest side. I was drawn to it but didn't know what it was. The dealer who sold it knew it was Indian or Tibetan but didn't know what it was beyond that. It was almost 20 years later before I learned that it was, in fact, Tibetan; it was a miniature version of a weapon used by Bön masters.
One thing I never learned how to use was a crystal sphere, intended for scrying. I never could get that thing to work, as a scrying device in any case. I found a lovely companion piece and it looks pretty but maybe I will find a use for it in the future.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An Early Eerie Episode

Last night, I went for a walk at night. I've mentioned it, I like to walk at night. It's cooler, (usually) quieter, and peaceful. It appeals to me.
As I walked down the street, it seemed quieter than usual. The space felt like it does during Halloween. I can't describe it any other way. Although the street is flat, it had the feeling of going down into a ravine. The air was indescribably alive with ghosts. I felt uneasy as if in the middle of a swarm. I saw something white and opaque land on a nearby rooftop.
I continued to walk down the block. By the end of the block, the feelings of unease were gone. I never felt in danger, more like a crowd of spirits coming after someone, but not me. I should check to see if anyone passed away on that street; perhaps they were getting an escort to another life?
I have mentioned it, the feeling was similar to the feelings I get around October.. it's starting early this year? or a special situation? It bears further investigation.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Birth of Fear

Our school built a new building in college. It was very shoddily built by a firm that didn't know how to build anything that big. So there was a lot of time for us to enter and explore the building before it officially opened since it was constantly getting permits and inspections. For example, one day during a heavy rain, water was pouring from around the plate of an electrical outlet. That caused some problems...
In the mean time, we found a way to get inside and figured out how to get onto the roof which gave us a view of the whole campus. At night, it was peaceful and beautiful. I watched the sun set from there one day. At the time, we were the highest viewpoint on campus.
One night, my buddy and I were headed for the roof. We had to go to the top floor then climb a ladder to an access panel on the roof. From there, we would crawl over a section of roof tiles that accessed the neighboring building (the only way to get there). Even if someone came after us, they very likely wouldn't pull the same stunt we did and, if they did, we could hear them coming and could scramble down the other side.
My buddy, insensitive to the most obvious of things, started to climb. But, as I ascended the ladder, I felt a fear I hadn't known. It almost seemed palpable. I could tell where it was coming from... At first, it was as if something was on the ladder looking down at us. I felt the fear move into the darkness away from the ladder. There was a small area between the top floor and the roof; it could almost be a secret room. The fear was emanating from a corner, as if something were as afraid of us as we, well I, were of it. I could never quite focus on anything hiding in the darkness, though.
That was the only night I felt fear. But after that night, I've had my fear of heights elevated. It was never as bad before that night.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stone Hut

Visiting my cousins was always an adventure. (see previous post, "It's Comic. It's Tragic.")
One year, we went hiking through the woods around their house. We came upon several boulders that had been arranged as a shelter; three walls and a roof. My cousins said it had been done a few months before, there was no longer trace of where the boulders had been.
It was very cool to see from a distance but, closer, it was somber. The air didn't seem to move. There was an unexplained heaviness around us. We, my cousins and siblings and I, just moved around the primitive shelter. Our silence added to the silence surrounding us.
Walking away from it, Nature seemed to waken. Even our feet crunching the frozen ground seemed alive by comparison.
I was drawn to the stone hut but I never knew why. I went out on my own and eventually found it. I went inside (for the first time); it was large enough for me, a child, to stand up and spread my arms to my sides just touching the walls. Now, it is difficult for me to imagine the dimensions so I must rely upon my memory of it.
Inside, the world seemed far away. The open face let in light from the world around but it was as if there were no sound allowed. Facing the light, I felt as if something were trying to pull me backwards, away from the world. But turning and facing the dark, I felt as if I were drawn back into the world of light. It was very disconcerting.
Walking back, my brothers found me. They told me I was in big trouble and would be sent home ahead of everyone else, alone. I might even miss out on Christmas. When we got back to my aunt's house, Mom was not upset at all; my brothers had mislead me. But I wasn't allowed to wander beyond sight of the house alone again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Light in the Sky

I often went outside at night. No particular reason. It was quiet, I suppose, and I could wander around safely, for the most part. I spent some time looking at constellations and the Moon. I also just listened to the night sounds.
One night, I looked up and saw a ball of light, slowly traveling from South to North. I ran inside, grabbed the only camera I could find, yelled for Mom to come outside with me, and ran back out the door. I got one picture of... it. Whatever it was? I lined up another shot just a short distance away, between two trees based on the trajectory.
The light slowly moved towards the trees. I checked the camera one last time. I waited.. but the light was gone. I looked around but I hadn't missed it, it had just disappeared as it headed behind the trees.
Disappointed, I went back inside just as my mom was heading out. She was busy and had just reached a stopping point. If she had been just a few minutes sooner, she would have seen it as well. So, I was the only person who saw it.
I scanned the papers every day for a week. Mom suggested I call the local Air Forces Base(s) to see if there was any reports of flying objects. I watched the local News channels for any mention of a strange light traveling through the sky. Nothing.
Every argument I could think of that it was a hoax was countered by another reason it couldn't be. In the end, I just let it be a mystery. If it was a hoax, it was extremely elaborate and no one ever took credit for it. If it weren't, there was something to wonder about in the night sky.
When I got the film developed, the only picture that didn't come out was the one picture I took of the light in the sky. I looked at the negative and it was fuzzy, at best. It looked like someone took a picture of a dim light at night. I suppose the good people who made the prints just assumed that I wouldn't a picture that was must have been taken in mistake.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cat People

I grew up in a suburb that grew up with me; we were one of the first houses on the block. A friend of mine grew up in a nearby rural community, the kind of place where you knew everyone on your block, knew your pharmacist, knew your grocer, etc.
His house was similar to mine. He had two brothers and sister, just like me. The similarities ended there, though. There was a lot of family quarrels in his house, sometimes ending in bloody fist-fights. When my family was routinely dull and predictable, his was energetic and dynamic; both are good in their own ways, of course, but adding elements of both made things more interesting for me and a nice break from the chaos for him.
There was an energy in his house that attracted the chaotic. Mostly, it was comical. Sometimes it was tragic. And there were the magical moments.
Whenever something unusual happened in that quiet little town, there could only be one of two reasons: my friend's family, or the gypsies. "Gypsies", it turns out, were any group of people who drifted into or near the town. They could be circus people. They could be a band. Heck, they could be a group of tourists travelling on the cheap. Whatever, they were all gypsies and whenever something went massively wrong, the gypsies were to blame.
We were trying to decide what trouble we could skirt that day. Just to the border of getting into trouble without really getting into trouble. I saw her through the window. She was skulking in the back yard. Which was odd because the back yard was fenced in. I looked at my friend and he had seen her too. Motioning for me to be quiet and to follow him, we headed for the side door. Whispering quickly, our plan was simple: go out the side door, circle around to the back gate, and surprise her. We really didn't know what would happen then but we were rushed.
She looked like a gypsy. That's the only way I can describe it. She had dark hair, sharp features, dark silky clothes with a black shawl draped over her shoulders and some dangling jewelry that stood out in sharp contrast to her dark clothes. I almost laughed: for once, I thought, the suspicious townies got it right.
She must have percieved us. She stopped looking into the windows, stood up, pulled her shawl over the top of her head, and quickly moved towards the other gate, which opened at the driveway. From there, she would be able to reach the street in no time. We started walking towards her, shouting "hey!" as we picked up the pace. She opened the gate and slipped through as we were half-way there. We broke out into a jog and opened the gate which had swung shut, my friend in the lead.
I only saw the after effect, my friend says he saw it happen. When I looked around, I couldn't see anyone, just a big black cat darting down the drive. My friend had stopped in his tracks and just stood, mouth agape. The gypsy woman was no where to be seen. He spun around, grabbed me by the shoulders, and pushed me back through the gate where he started walking in circles. He says he saw the gypsy turn into the cat as she was walking away.
On reflection, it completely makes sense as far as the disappearance of the gypsy woman. I would go so far as to say I saw the end of the transformation. The cat seemed bigger at first but I wasn't looking for the cat, I was looking for the woman, so it didn't really register.
I've walked back there plenty of times; there was no other place for the woman to have gone, nothing to hide behind. I trust my friend completely, there was no reason for him to make up a story like that. It happened so fast it had to have happened; a similar transformation in a Hollywood movie would have taken several minutes at least if not a whole scene.
I never saw that gypsy woman again. Nor that cat.