My blog mentor, Yaro Starak says we should tell our life story as is relevant to our blog topic. So here it begins. I intend to use the four seasons and then the Center to organize my Magical Timeline.
I think childhood is a magical time for most people. Most lose their sense of wonder early, others later. I never lost mine. So for what its worth here are my beginnings. I intend the progression of my spiritual path to unfold in these posts, much like the Fool’s journey in Tarot. Much like the Fool, the first magical person I ever met was a Tarot reader in a carnival.
I begin in the North because I always had a sense that my soul came to Earth from the North Pole. later on I was told by a Blackfoot medicine woman that, unlike most people who are born in the South, I was born in the North. This explains why I spent so much time out of my body went I entered the airy East at adolescence. People born in the North tend to feel that they are living their life backwards.
(If I had a scanner that worked I would have a better picture. They came from Quebec after WWI. My grandfather fought in the trenches at Normandy.)
Born in the North
I was born on January 23, 19– (LOL) in Worcester, Massachusetts. My brother, James, was born on January 22, one year later. We were like twins.
We lived in a tenement on Plantation Street for three years. I have many vivid memories from that time, including a dream.
In trying to escape from my crib, I climbed over the bar and fell down, spraining my arm. I had to go to the doctor’s and get an x-ray. My Grandmother brought me a Bride doll that had waist that turned. This was the first time I had ever seen such a thing. That night I dreamed that the doll was a woman dancing naked in the starry sky and the top of her body went to the right, while the lower half went to the left. It always makes me think of the World card in the Tarot when I remember this dream.
House in the Woods
When I was three, we moved to 4 Lexington Avenue, Leicester, Massachusetts. This house was at the bottom of a hill, one of a string of new houses built into the woods on the former farmlands of Peter Salem, a free black man who had received those acres as payment for his service in the Revolutionary War. All the streets were named after the Revolution. We lived on Lexington Ave that swept around a bend and down a little hill named Bunker Hill. At the bottom of Bunker Hill were our mailboxes as we were and RFD route in those days. Peter Salem Road swept along from Pleasant Street to the Four Corners where Henshaw Street going up to the left. I think it looped back to Pitcairn Ave which joined Bunker Hill at the top. There was a huge chestnut tree around there where we collected horse cobblers and a bridge over a stream where the ‘bad boys’ used to go to sniff glue.
Most beautifully there was a hill that used to be Peter Salem’s blueberry orchard, The bushes were large and, in summer, loaded with huge, juicy berries. On hot summer days the air was fragrant with the smell of ripe blueberries.
Being New Englanders, these little bits of history were important to us, gave us a sense of place. Behind our houses ran an old sawmill road. It wound through the stands of trees and mountain laurel, opening out to a sand pit and the ruined saw mill long gone to decay. Along with the woods, this was a fantastic playground; our home away from home. There were lots of kids in that neighborhood around the same age. I was an excellent tree climber and could even scale the pine trees with all their needles. Scratches and sappy hands were worth it because the pine smelled so good and the view at the top was superb.
There were clearings off to the side of the sawmill road where logs had been piled very long ago. They made a pleasant hang out in the summer. The woods always smelled of pine, made more resinous and fragrant by the heat. One day I was there alone wondering about a circle that had been worn into the ground, when suddenly I heard bells coming down the sawmill road, and before I knew it, a tribe of Indians in full regalia including face paint, feathers, moccasins — the whole works, were filing into the clearing. They entered the area with high ceremony, ignoring me completely, and began to dance around the circle. The dance involved throwing out bad spirits. I watched them totally mesmerized and still remember what they did and how they moved. When they finished the dance, they turned and left with the same concentration as when they came. Even though I learned later that were a group of Boy Scouts, that was a strange and magical moment for me.
We were part Indian, Iroquois. My mother used to bring me to what was left of an Indian reservation in the city of Worcester, An old lady lived there alone called Princess White Flower. She dressed in white buckskin and had long white braids. Some days she held barbecues, called Free For Alls that my other took us to.
I will skip a lot now because some of this stuff will be detailed in my blog.
Catholic Mass and Ceremonial Magic
I will mention my Roman Catholic upbringing though as I feel my initiation to ceremonial magic began in church.
My family is predominantly French Canadian and Indian. There is some Irish thrown in for good luck. My father’s side, the Heberts, Roys, LeDoux, Borrassas, etc, are very French to the point of Medievalism. When me and Jim slept over at Meme and Pepe’s house on the weekend, we were up Sunday morning saying rosary beads on our knees before going to church.
Church was Bleeding Heart of Jesus, if I recall, Sacre Couer. The whole Mass was said in Latin and French. I didn’t understand a word of it. It was an incense filled cathedral, lit by candle branches, with a huge Baroque altar from which a life sized crucifix loomed, angled so that Jesus hovered over the congregation like a giant bird. The ceiling was painted with clouds and it seems to me some of them were detached and suspended by chains. The nuns were voluminous black habits and used castanets to direct us when to sit, stand, and kneel. The Priest wore fantastic robes; the choir of monks sang like angels. For a kid like me, it was as if I had entered another dimension full of magic and mystery. I loved not understanding what they said. It increased my sense of having left the mundane world behind.
(I can’t find a picture of the Sacred Bleeding Heart of Jesus Church, but it felt something like this.)
Civil Rights Movement: We Knew Abby Hoffman
When I was ten, my mother got involved in the Civil Rights Movement. For a whole summer we went to the poor neighborhoods in Worcester so my mother could teach the black ladies how to knit. All my friends that summer were black and our playground was the street. Instead of climbing trees, we climbed stairs and railings and chain link fences. My mother worked very closely with Sheila Hoffman, Abby Hoffman’s first wife. I played with their kids Elia and Andy. Once I saw a sign in front of a house that said “Dr.Hoffman”. I asked my mother if Mr. Hoffman was a doctor? She said, “No. He’s a kook.”
Folk music was all the rage: Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, The Seekers, The Kingston Trio. I was especially drawn to the English and Scottish folk ballads and the Appalachian ones that stemmed from them. They were like Grimm’s Fairy Tales put to music. It may have these influences that caused me to populate the woods with spirits, but it seemed that there was a difference between and fairies I saw in my head and the figures I saw in the woods — some of whom were Indians that were not in Grimm’s nor from the Child ballads.
It was also in my tenth year that I first read the hugely influential, The Lord of the Rings.
1966: Vatican II made my father crazy. My parents fought all the time. My sister, Susan was born. My mother went mad, and my world turned upside down.
My mother went on ‘retreat’ to a convent in Lancaster Massachusetts called the Cenacle.
She stayed there for a week or two, and we went to see her one weekend. This was the most beautiful place on earth! Not only was the Convent house a splendid mansion with shiny banisters and stained glass windows, but there wee several large gardens designed in European styles. There was a shady English garden full of green shrubberies, trees, and lush grass surrounded by a high stone wall, and an Italian garden with broad steps, classical urns filled with bright flowers, sculptures, and carved stone benches, bounded by a wall that let in the light. There was a Spanish Garden, a Topiary, and a French formal garden. I explored them all and the memories have stayed with me all this time finding their way into my novel The Golden Stair about a witch and her magical gardens.
Then at night the nuns sang the sun down, and at dawn they sang the sun up, with the most celestial voices, layering over each other like far away bells, and gongs deep under the sea.
Leaving My Sacred Land
A year later we moved “ closer to town”. “Town” was Main Street with its gas station, grocery store, convenience store, Italian restaurant, and the library. There were woods all around our house, a lake across the street that used to be a beach until the Castle Restaurant was built. A stream ran from the lake, under the road, and came out through our back yard. The stream wound through what was then bushes, and eventually pooled around a ruined mill where a big brick chimney stood on its own like a tower.
I was deeply miserable for a long time. Not just because I was separated from all of my friends, but because I was separated from the land. The trees and swamps, frogs, fireflies, birds, little stone walls running through the woods, the clearings, the sawmill road, were my friends too. I didn’t know if I would find the same magic in the new place.
To be continued…
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