Bracken sticks and dried berries fit only for birds. Crows crowd the trees. Even when its warm during the day, night falls sooner and we turn with our planet toward the darker side of things. An inner unseen side, a quiet side as silent as night itself.
Here in the city, night has activity sounds that the ear can follow far into the distance of space. Street lights illuminate the trees from below. It’s a warm fall in Vancouver, a little rainy. The leaves are still mostly green, but the withdrawal of life force down into the roots makes them brittle, less animate.
Naturally at this time of year, I start feeling witchy. It’s a good feeling - and it isn’t just thinking about attunement to nature. Now I’m older, the arc is wider: seasonal and annual waves replace my old cycles that had followed the moon for so many years. I love matching my body and life pattern to the time, day, month, and season, and comparing them over the years. And old friends alongside me can show me the picture over time, the one I can’t always see for myself.
Today, the path I follow is dotted with dear ones standing along the way, leaning on their walking sticks. When you’re young, the old people standing along the side of your path are unknown to you. But over time you can begin to see them, then recognize them as friends, ancestors, relations, or allies. Their faces are changed, as faces do when we age. In their eyes burns a tremendous fire. If you receive that glance you are bonded forever.
Bonded not to the one you “saw”, but bonded to the source of that inner fire. Don’t be fooled by any of the visible infirmities or seeming inaction. Look to the inner fire and you will find it there, greater than ever, now that the energies are no longer dispersed into the stuff of everyday life and getting ahead in this world.
Figures like these are all along the roadside. Observers, mostly, but sometimes they show the way. And like in the fairytales, they might give tests - to reveal great virtues like honour, truth, responsibility. The raggedy old woman, the hag, the witch. As you see them along the path, you can’t tell them apart from one another. Is it the same one, or a different one? We can’t say. Linked by the same fire in the eyes, it is the same. But the physical vehicle? Who can tell? Such differentiation matters less and less.
In the fall, they come out from the bracken to stand at the roadside. Some beg. Some cry out. Some ask riddles. Some observe with eyes as keen as ravens. They may shapeshift as crows, or as relatives grown so inexplicably old they are unrecognizable.
Sometimes they withdraw into the woods for centuries at a time. But now, because the woods are shrinking and the world is burning, flooding, blowing, they are even coming out and standing along our city streets. Or on our residential pathways, along all our coastlines, on all the prominent hills and even mountaintops. They surround the houses of parliament and legislature. They watch, standing, leaning on their sticks, eyes burning.
Are they here to help, or just observe? Have they been driven out, or did they come of their own accord? We normally didn’t see them during the day, in warm weather, yet everything’s so upside down these days, we see them everywhere now. Not with our eyes though, just on the inside.
When all the physical energy’s gone into the roots, the fire of life burns brightly as the gold trees of autumn. These old friends hold high old secrets. When blustering winds blow these old folks down, they jump right back up again, dusting themselves off with a rattling laugh. They lift up together, with the wind at their backs, like kites, like crows. Witches on broomsticks, circling in the moonlight.
(Image is from Giuseppe Pietro Bagetti, Il noce di Benevento / The Tree at Benevento, the Gathering Place of Witches, early 19th century)
Thanks for sending me your questions and suggestions. I’m intrigued, and plan to compile them all for next issue. If you want to add something to the mix, send it to me by Wednesday. Just reply by email to this post.
Please forward this to anyone you know who might like to find it in their inbox, too. And if you like this post, click the heart on the page to give it some internet love! Thanks for reading and subscribing to Personal Papers, my always free and completely non-commercial newsletter.