Sitting with Spirit

It was strange to hear from a trusted friend and experienced practitioner of the Ars Magika that the very public place we were holding our full moon ritual felt like an old ceremonial center. As far as I could tell, Downtown West Palm Beach had never been any such thing. Of course, nearly anything is possible in Florida’s history, especially when talking about places that were built several hundred years ago without any care for cultural resource management. But that wasn’t what made his comment strange. I had been working magic on the area for about eight days at that point (many more now) and had begun to connect with the spirits of place.

Let me clarify: I had already established contact and a friendly exchange with the spirit of the Lake Worth Lagoon, and afterward I occupied the two hours of nightly sit-ins by getting into a meditative state, journeying about in the spirit realms, and calling to the ancestors of the land. In my defense, I have been told to do similar work many times already in previous journeys to gods and local spirits. I wasn’t just dallying blindly, but using a “spirit contact” ritual format handed down by them, more or less. By this time, the ritual basically did itself when the drumming track started, and I supervised to make sure the “pillar of light” I raised in the center was feeding and healing the spirits that came.

Then came the night of the twenty-first, full of anticipation and worry for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota. I wanted to help but couldn’t. Even if I could fly there overnight, what would one more body do against militarized police, BIA agents, and the Guard of the state? They’d asked for prayers, I noted, then sank into my usual meditation. Immediately, I knew what could be accomplished that day. The spirits were restless, shuffling/skipping/dancing around the pillar and calling out, almost. They were praying, just like the first night I had done this, praying with a whisper of ghostly voices rippling across the ethereal winds.

I joined them in the circle of shifting bodies, preserving my boundaries and sending up my prayer as well. I don’t even know what I said, precisely. My words were spirit and emotion, imagery and intent. My words were also their words and we circled around that pillar feeding it for once, uploading our collective support and dreams. This went on for perhaps five minutes (judging by the time elapsed in the track), or until I backed away and returned spirit to body. I felt the drain of having spent so much of my personal energy on the working, the dizziness that came over me then, and taking deep hard breaths to steady myself. The spirits went on dancing and praying, but slowly that too faded.

And the wind! All along I had felt it whipping past us. The strong eastern breezes became harder, more urgent, making the palms strain as they bent with it and their fronds whipped around. Then that changed, too, as the prayer went up. It came from the north and west and south. It blew in from every corner in short, but meaningful bursts. Sentences and prayers carried on the wind, all throughout that night.

The next day Florida and Standing Rock were connected through live, wireless transmissions and weather.  We watched in worry and anticipation for the raids of heavily armed police against an unarmed, cooperative, civilized population. We watched the First Amendment take a bullet to the knee.

My heart and prayers are still with the Water Protectors, at Standing Rock and everywhere the Sabal Trail Resistance is. My work isn’t done, but perhaps the Night Camp @ Clematis is finished. I hoped to inspire people to come sit with me—I thought it’d be easy. It wasn’t and I was only visited a few times*. Eventually, the realization came that this wasn’t meant to be a huge event, so I began to feel guilt for adopting the Lokota “camp” terminology. I don’t think anyone else called it a camp but me.

But I called the spirits almost every night, and they came in from the Western Gate. They danced to drums and chanting and fed on a pillar of light, praying ghostly prayers. Tonight I’ll go back and thank them properly as the allies they were.

*Many, many thanks to everyone that came by. I’ve forgotten some of your names, but not your faces and your bright spirit.

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