In my last blog, I talked about an episode that occurred back in 2012 when I gave a Fortean researcher some advice on how to open a way for possible manifestation of the Sasquatch phenomenon. That person, even though they did not follow my instructions specifically, seemed to have some limited success. I mentioned, too, that if I were giving a researcher such instructions now, I might do things differently.
Orion Foxwood, author of several interesting books on Faerie Seership, Southern Conjure and Traditional Witchcraft, defines spirituality (and I am paraphrasing slightly) as finding your place in the world of the spirits. I have become more and more animist in my views as I get older; my world, when I pay attention, is a rich melange of spirits, ranging from the dead and ancestors to the spirits of place that might be called faery by some to spirits of animals and other Powers that I have been privileged to meet in my wanderings.
The other day, as I walked my dog on the nature trail behind my apartment, I detected movement and looked up in time to see a raptor unfurl its wings and take flight. The bird soared from trees some distance from me to land on a bare branch about 20 feet over my head, then sat looking down at me with some interest. I moved slowly until I was standing directly below this juvenile red tailed hawk and stood for a moment savoring the experience. As my dog was restless to be on his way and do his business, I could not stay long but, as I walked away, I thanked the hawk for showing himself to me and asked that any lesson he wanted to teach me come to me in an obvious way. I am still not sure what I was to glean from that meeting but I know from long experience that I will smack myself in the head in the next few weeks and say, “Oh! That is what Hawk was trying to tell me.”
If I were going to instruct that researcher today, my first step before discussing any sort of ritual would be to ask them who the crossroads figure or opener of the way is in their culture or belief. Whether we are speaking of a being as obvious as Legba Atibon (whose veve is above) in the spiritual practices of Haitian Vodou or Hekate in the work of some pagans or Saint Peter in the beliefs of some Christians (the keeper of the keys to the kingdom and opener of the door to heaven), every culture had gods and spirits that serve to open the way into the spirit world and who must, in some sense, be passed if we are to work there. So important is this function in Vodou, that no ritual or ceremony can begin without first offering a prayer and perhaps a cigar, rum,coffee or food to “Papa” Legba so that he will open the way to the world of the lwa (spirits).
Going a bit further afield, in spiritualist practice, which focuses heavily on communication with the dead, the medium is trained to contact and work with a spirit guide often known as a gatekeeper. This guide’s job is to allow solid contacts with spirits that will be helpful the medium and to deflect ‘negative’ spirits away from the medium. In essence, this being opens a safe path into the spirit world for the practitioner. In neo-shamanic practice, this place is taken by a power animal who guides the practitioner in his or her journeys and, again, acts to keep the practitioner safe from spirits that might not be wholesome or which they are simply unprepared to deal with.
So, now, before providing any ritual structure, I would want a researcher who was interested in taking the step from observer to practitioner to cultivate a relationship with one of these way opening spirits. Much would be dependent upon the soul of this new practitioner but I would always counsel them to begin with the spirits that they grew up with unless they (like me) simply could not abide that belief system. In that case, things become trickier since the person will have to find a way opener that appeals to them and who is willing to work with them. Just because one thinks that the Dark Rider at the Crossroads of conjure fame is a cool concept does not mean that the Dark Rider is particularly anxious to work with that person. The person who wants to be a practitioner needs to patiently and respectfully experiment until he or she finds the way opener who will work with them.
The important thing to remember, when looking at any of these way opening spirits, is that your beliefs about them are irrelevant. Thinking that you are protected because Hekate is simply a part of the collective unconscious is a recipe for having Her demonstrate to you how wrong you are. Even if you have this belief, it is imperative that you act as if Hekate or whatever being you are trying to work with is a real and separate person and personality existing in a realm other than the one you normally live in. Then, approach that being with respect (no need to grovel), ask if they would be willing to work with you in your endeavors and ask for a very clear sign of that willingness, one that you can not miss. I guarantee that if you keep sincerely putting the energy out there, you will find what you are looking for (assuming that you are not a power tripping idiot looking to order spirits around like pawns on a chess board) and the relationship with this way opening spirit will take you to the crossroads where a whole new world will open up for you.