I should’ve listened to the fairy tales of my childhood. The stories my mother told came with a clear warning: a path can only be walked once.
There are certain times in our lives when we happen upon a door to the Otherworld. We are shaken, enlightened, and transformed by the experience. The ripple effect of encountering such magic so intimately reverberates throughout every aspect of our mundane lives. These are unmistakably magical encounters.
Then there are the other times, the more common ones, when that door is lost. Shrouded. Nonexistent. The mists of time converge over the enchanted forests we hold in our imaginary. Where preoccupation and wayfinding with magic once was, we become preoccupied with work, what to make for dinner, family obligations, or the laundry.
In 1662, Scottish witch Isobel Gowdie testified that she took the form of a raven or hare to travel to the Otherworld. These spirit journeys gained her an audience with the King and Queen of Elves. But her daily life was less fantastic. Isobel spent most hours working through basic household tasks such as weaving, milking, baking bread, and weeding.
My heart has been pulled back and forth between the madness of mysticism and the chores of mundane life. I’ve spent countless hours at the altar, evenings lost in the woods after dark, and hours of shuffling cards in search of divine guidance. These experiences have been foundational to my spiritual life. Yet, they feel like memories of another time – another me.
I’ve changed a lot since 2018, when I was probably at my “peak” in applied magical and spiritual practice. I had all the time in the world to devote to my own spirit journeys. But since then, I’ve committed to a career, a spouse, to a house, and to parenthood. These commitments are, by comparison, fairly mundane. The maintenance of these bonds requires busyness, thoughtful awareness of others, and planning ahead. I now spend countless hours washing dishes, folding laundry, tending the garden, attending meetings, prepping activities for my child, and working in spreadsheets.
With my mind and heart thus occupied, I’ve drifted further from the mystical – most especially the Goddess of my maidenhood. I am now an entirely new type of woman, an entirely new archetype. In these months leading up to Samhain, I find myself reaching once again for the Otherworld.
Witches and priests with years of practice have an intimate understanding of just how intertwined the energies of the magical and mundane realms can be. A practiced magician can harness the energy spent on anything from laundry to sex. I, frankly, am not quite there. At one time I thought I was. But as life has offered me heavier burdens and greater responsibilities, I have found my magical font to be sufficient – but not as the source of inner power it was in my early 20s.
When we enter the forest of enchantments, we are led to portals, discoveries, teachers, and spirits. But our footsteps that had led us there disappear.
We can only walk a path once. I am on a new path.
This Samhain, I’m entering the mists with fresh eyes. I’m no longer seeking the same doors I once found before. In my ritual, I will release the sense of obligation I feel to remain the same woman I was three years ago. I am entirely new. My priorities in particular have dramatically shifted. I am a different creature spiritually, emotionally, mentally, professionally, and personally. I give myself permission to be reborn.
I go in seek of a door in the Oak tree of the wildwood. I have zero expectations of what is on the other side.
…Who am I kidding? I have a hunch!