Herein begins the story of the Book…
I have walked the path of atonement.
I have mourned the broken blood-taboo,
For I am guilty of pornographies.
I have been possessed by various possessions,
I have stood in opposition to the Way Things Must Be.
Yet I cast my eyes upwards-
And there, behold the Throne above the Stars,
With the appearance of fire round about within it.
I fall flat on my face before the Wheel of Heaven above.
I come before the World Tree,
The monolithic obelisk inscribed with secrets,
From which all flamboyant, sacrilegious acts hang.
I come before the Tau Cross,
From which the beautiful shining serpent hangs.
An offer is made, a token of sacrifice.
I hang, I fall, I fly, and I am free.
~ Sara Olwen
The journey begins as many journeys have, on a winding path through the dark woods at night. There is a moonless sky above, and the woods teem with the glowing eyes of ravenous wolves. The lantern I carry does little to illuminate the trail ahead more than a few paces. The hoary trees are thick and bearded with stringy moss. There is of course a thick fog hanging in the air. There must be a swamp nearby. A morass, that feels like a good word to describe that unknowable darkness beyond my lantern’s sweep.
This is the start of a journey along the crooked path. It could start in many places, but they are nearly all dark and intimidating to begin with, for it is the journey into the unknowable recesses of the self. It gets pretty dark and scary in there, even for those of us who try to be mindful and cultivate a tranquil garden within. Yet for all our efforts, the wilderness is persistent, and the brambles of the inner wild will grow back as quickly as they are lopped away.
There is no desire here to tame the wastes. When we try to burn down the woods, and drive away the wolves, the shadow only grows stronger and more oppressive. The journey is not about conquest; it is about coexistence, and ultimately, co-creation.
I walk along ahead, and soon perceive a hazy, yellow light in the distance. Perhaps it is another lantern, not unlike my own. I am not too surprised. There are other wanderers along the path, and there are many points of intersection. I clutch my own lantern close, and press onward.
The light grows brighter and larger as I draw nearer. It flickers like a blazing golden flame.
At last, I can see that is indeed a burning fire. It has hallowed out the trunk of a massive, ancient oak tree. The tree grows right in the midst of the path, and its trunk blocks the way forward. To go around the tree is to risk becoming lost the morass which has grown thick on either side. It seems as though the journey has come to an impasse.
I stare at the burning tree, its flames whipping up from within and racing upwards toward the dark-leaved boughs. I recall the oak as the sacred tree of the thunder-gods, of Taranis. The oak is the summoner of lightning, illumination. I had not perceived the brilliant flash which must have caught the tree ablaze, yet here it is, burning brilliant and hot.
The fire grows ever more intense. The entire tree appears enshrouded in flame, from its roots to the crown. Smoke billows toward the stars above, and soon they are completely obscured. I see serpents with forked tongues leap from the white-hot core of the inferno. I fear the woods of my inner wild will burn down, in some catastrophic wildfire of the soul- and yet, the fire does not appear to spread. The oak and the oak alone is consumed in hellfire.
Walk through the fire. Pass through the flame.
A disembodied voice comes from somewhere beyond the oak, perhaps on the other side of the path that I am unable to cross over to.
This seems to be poor advice. Surely I would be burned. Surely I would perish.
Yet I look again at the burning oak, and the surrounding trees enclosed so thick and close around it. Not a single leaf scorched or singed in the vicinity. A curious fire this is.
“Why should I enter the fire? I must know the terms of this bargain.” I ask the faceless entity.
To pass beyond fear. To claim the tools and the key.
Passing beyond fear is exactly why I have begun this journey, whether I knew that from the start or not. My lantern is still burning brightly. I trust that I will pass through as unharmed as the grass growing right up to the embers alighting upon them.
I walk toward the hollow within the oak, to the most intense part of the blaze. I pass through, and I am unharmed.
I have walked through a doorway, and am now somewhere else. This can happen sometimes in the inner wild. There are unexpected portals and passageways crisscrossed throughout, and I have landed on the other side of one. I am now within a comfortable, cozy cottage with plaster walls and a thatched roof. Throughout the home are the various articles indicating a rustic life- iron pots and pans, wooden walking sticks, and farming tools placed carefully against the walls. The floor is threshed with fresh straw. A small, well-contained fire is burning within the hearth, over which a black kettle sits.
There is a wooden chair by the fire, and upon it a weathered leather-bound book.
“May I see the book?” I ask, not sure who I may be addressing.
It is yours to view, but not to take.
I nod. No one is in the cottage. No one that I can yet perceive.
I walk up to the book, and open the cover. I see the letters, in typical fancy fairy-tale scrawl, spell out The Good Spell Cookbook.
Well, that’s interesting. I take a seat before the fire, allowing myself to get comfortable, and begin to page through the yellowed vellum, taking care not to leave a trace or a tear. Contained within its pages are spells and charms and riddles of all manners. There are as many mysteries as there are answers, and for each answer, a new mystery is found. It seems as though there is no end to the book. The more I page through it, the more there is to read. The tome is clearly enchanted, and it would take an eternity to read through it all.
I wisely decide that there is no way that I will be gleaning all the knowledge to be had in one sitting, for there are other, more mundane tasks I must return to on the other side of the jump that brought me here. Things like feeding my cat, or making tea, or watching Dr. Who with my husband. So I set the book back on the chair for now, and walk back toward the entrance of the cottage.
I walk out, and am back in the woods. The oak behind me is no longer engulfed in flames. Where the hollow once stood, there is now a sturdy arched door. A way to return on another journey in the not-too-distant future.
I go back the way that I came, with my lantern guiding the way back along the crooked path, going back the way I know well. I let my desire to return fill me, and I am back in the realm of mortals and pad thai.
So begins the story of the Book, and its many secrets contained within. The book of course is no physical entity, and there is no one single volume to be had. This Book is found within the heart space of any seeker. It is yours to view. It can never be taken.
Would you pass beyond fear, and take a look as what it holds?
Drawing for the Week:
Ogham- Iphin (Gooseberry), Uilleand (Honeysuckle), nGetal (Reed or Broom)
Iphin teaches us to remember the sweetness in life, like the simple pleasure of finding a berry bush laden with ripe fruit, and allowing yourself to eat your fill. Remember to save some for others, and to share in your abundance. This goes along well with the flowering, sweet-scented honeysuckle. Uilleand also can be associated with the word-ogham “elbow”, and may mean you need to flex or extend yourself a bit. Combining this with nGetal, which may be interpreted as either reed or broom, and there is also a sense of purification or needed purification (broom was often burned in the past to help fumigate houses). Viewed together, I see the theme of returning to harmony, and the healing of disharmonious elements, to bring about renewal and abundance. Consider what you would like to harvest or grow, and what pests must be driven out of your garden to ensure its fruition.