This has been a tough week, a tough couple of weeks, for magical practice. Every since the last new moon, and some time before it, I was feeling more like an atheist in the back of the church going through the motions to please some out of town family members.
I was sure that when the moon began to grow full again I would find a return, find my way into the dim channels of communication that I have been trying to establish. I was sure I'd be able to reconnect in some way to the two saints on my small altar, to the ancient planetary spirits that I hymn to every morning, and especially to the even older Decans that I have just begun to call. In the past, when I add new spirits, or new rituals or hymns to my daily repertoire I would almost certainly gain back that strong feeling of connection, of being something other than just a man floating through life with alternating bright shining laughter of his family and the manufactured and irrelevant stresses of his job.
This morning, while I enjoyed an extra ten minutes of slow breathing and visualization, I was feeling particularly dissatisfied when it came to performing my daily hymns and callings on long quiet astrological spirits. I got ready for my day instead and only sat down to pull a card in the hopes that it would inspire my writing for the week. What I received woke me from my stupor. It was Judgement, reversed. There might be other definitions for this card in its reversed state but the one offered by Holistic Tarot was a warning, to not neglect one's spiritual path even though that is how you are feeling.
The card gave me two answers in one. It sent me on the right direction, to write about the inevitable nadir of spiritual experience when practicing magic in the twenty-first century and to shake off the feelings of being ineffective and low to the earth, the feelings of being consumed by the horrors of the mundane, to shake them off and to call out to the spirit world again. I complied.
The feelings, or lack thereof, were largely the same, small and brief buzzing when beginning a prayer, that faded quickly. The only clear current I felt was when calling out to the Decan that rules the first degree of Leo. The prayer I was given, which is available to those with the foresight to invest in a premium membership over at Rune Soup, has one line where you call yourself by name and then you call your mothers name. On a whim, I switched that line to call out my patriarchal lineage, which I know all the way back to mid nineteenth century Urshult, Sweden. The paper trail disappears at my great great grandfather, a Finn by the name of Franc from what I can tell, that sired a bastard, young Gustaf, who came to American to start my line. Making that small change resulted in a spark, not the most intense, but that it was that tingling body buzz that I've come to identify with magic that is working. It was here, and then it was gone.
The calling out of ancestors is a theme in Lovecraft, especially in the strange, almost unfinished, tale called The Descendant. It takes place in London, in an area of ill repute, in a rooming house of even less repute. In it there is a man, wizened and wrinkled, that spends his days reading fluffy romance novels and bildungsromans. Also in this rooming house is a young man by the name of Williams, a treasure hunter, a seeker of the forbidden. This young man possess a copy of the Necronomicon.
Here Lovecraft gives a very detailed account of how young Williams arrived at his copy of the Necronomicon. First, he hears of it, from a bookseller on Chandos Street. This bookseller only knows of the book and mentions it because of Williams' other interests. He asserts there are only five known copies and that four of those are tightly guarded in private libraries. Later, when wandering through Clare Market, Williams finds a stand stationed by an older Jewish seller of curiosities. Among his wares is the fifth extant copy of the Necronomicon - a book spirit on a mission if I ever heard of one - where it nearly leaps into the eager seekers hands.
Williams had been befriending the old man, and through his investigations he identifies as part of a long, impossibly long, lineage that stretches back to when Rome was the ruler of England. The old man was once a scholar that went by the name, Lord Natham, but Williams could not get a sense of whatever terrible thing happened to him that sent him fleeing from his own mind, drowning it in inanity and the lightest of colloquial prose. The young man brings the Necronomicon to him seeking help with the Latin the forbidden book is written in.
Instead of what we expect, Lovecraft gives us another six paragraphs describing the man's ancestral line before leaving the story and the reader, somewhat unfulfilled. While you would be forgiven to think the Necronomicon is the focus of the tale, upon closer examination this story is about the solitude of Lord Natham, the vehicle explaining the old man's ancestors and his families ancient origination only serves to reinforce this theme.
In the Minor Arcana, the Four of Swords represents solitude.
At the beginning of this Decan period, prompted by the clear themes of barriers and hidden gates in Lovecraft, I innovated a new layout. It consists of the signifier card on the left side, three cards down the middle that represent the wall blocking the querant from her goal, and a fifth card on the right representing the querant after the gate through the barrier has been found and she is irrevocably changed on the other side.
The Four of Swords, Reversed, represents me in this spread. Reversed this card represents the household, which could easily be seen mapping back to the reclusive Lord Natham. My analysis of this spread is that the management of the household, in my case working with money (no surprise there, I'm sure every reader can relate), is resulting in a depletion or an ignoring of spiritual needs. The ancient wall rising before me, through which I must find a gate, is made up of temptation, austerity, and mental (and thus illusory) bondage. Once I find a way through this barrier, I will come out on the other side in motion away from the magical nadir I now find myself in, but there will be much greater risk related to materialism, temptation, and frivolousness.
At first, I looked over the significance of the Four of Swords, until I asked the deck later in the week specifically to reveal the card that aligns with the story of The Descendant. The Four of Swords dropped again from the deck, this time in its upright position.
This and two other subsequent daily cards drawn after invoking the current Decan, daily planetary prayers, and appeals to the saints I have been trying to speak with made clear to me that working through the magical nadir, the candles metaphorically burning right down to the table, was the right choice. To not give up just because it didn't feel right was the correct path, the spirit world still heard me and my enchantments were still molding reality in my favor, just inperceptibly so.
I am writing this because many of the magic blogs that I read are filled with incredible experiences and spirit contact and battle magic. I have yet to find one that describes the inevitable lulls that all of us must feel attempting to work magic in a largely disenchanted world.
I'm writing this so you know you are not alone and so I can tell myself the same.