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February 1st, 2006


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09:53 pm - Learning my lessons
Some people, it's said, don't believe in magic. They're constantly challenging others to show proof, or to offer something "real". Well, it's been said that asking a Chaos Magician to "prove it" might just garner the rather frightening response of "I'll see what I can do."1

And so, I offer a personal experience, just for you, from my early years working with a teacher I greatly respect.

I had been in school for a while, and had gotten a bit of wanderlust in my veins. There was a long weekend available, so I took it south and made a run to a place I'd always wanted to visit in Kentucky, a cave up in the eastern Kentucky mountains, near Warco. There are a number of mines up there, but there are also some caves. I'd been told about this particular cave by a friend, who said that if you were inside the mouth at sunset, a curious sound would arise, and most people just heard what they described as a "groaning" or "sigh". My friend assured me that this was not the sound of the whorehouse the coalminers frequented that was down the slope.

I raced the spring sun south, and spent the night in a hotel that evening. The next morning, I asked around for directions to the cave, but I made very little headway until I stopped for lunch at a diner just off Thornsbury Rd. When I asked the waitress how to get there, she said that she knew it well because she'd been up there with a couple of high school friends a couple years ago. She drew me a map, told me where to park my car, and gave me a general heading. She said I'd recognize it by the beercans, which disappointed me some.

I drove up the mountain a bit, following the road she'd indicated. Mostly, the drive was flat and followed the river, but it wasn't perfect. I found my pull-off not far away, and looked for the landmarks she'd indicated, and headed into the woods when I found them.

I walked up a very steep part of the mountain, and about ten minutes later I'd come to the clearing that sat in front of the cave. There were, indeed, a number of beercans strewn about.

I waited a few hours until it became dark, snacking on the granola bars I'd brought and drinking water in the cool air, and then sat down in the mouth of the cave.

The cave faced the setting sun almost perfectly. I watched the sun go down, listening for the "groan" I expected to hear, wondering what might cause it. As the sun slowly disappeared over the mountain across from me, I began to worry that I wouldn't hear anything.

And then I heard it.

A voice, gentle as spring rain on flowers spoke in the darkness, right next to my left ear. It rolled over me as a song might, dancing across my consciousness and lightly touching my heart. The words formed lines, the lines stanzas, and finally they coalesced into a beautiful poem. The poem the lady of the cave spoke would later prove oracular, but for now, it is not so important, though I hold the words dear to my heart.

I found my way down the mountain in the darkness and retired to my hotel, filled with the beautiful voice and the poem that had spoken to me so lovingly.

The next morning, finding I had nearly two more days before I had to be back in classes (and I could fudge a few extra if need be), I decided to go up to Lexington and check in with a friend there who owned some land and liked to entertain magicians. It was there that I met my teacher. He called himself Washburn, and he was certainly not a product of this area. He was always dressed all in white, shaved cleanly, and slightly taller than myself. He wore a gold star that had nine points around his neck and often wore a turban as well. Washburn was a mystic, and a little cracked at that. He seemed like a strange character, but given the other people in the house, I wasn't overly put off by his manner. Besides, he did the most wondrous things.

We went riding the first day I was there, and he stood on the back of the horse and did carnival tricks, sometimes standing on one leg, occasionally jumping logs and jumping off the horse and back on. That night, he told me that he had performed with the Spanish Riding School and a circus in Paris, where he'd learned both how to ride and how to do tricks. The second day, we visited downtown Lexington, and he produced some parlor tricks, magical slight of hand to amaze some children. He showed me how to produce a quarter and how to lose it in the child's pocket without the child ever knowing.

That night, we spoke of more mysterious things, including where we'd learned what we knew. I was a tad embarrassed, because my magical training had all been on my own, and I didn't feel it was that advanced. He was quick to point out that it was not magical training that made the magician, but merely willingness to be magical, but he told me of his own training next.

"For eighteen years," he said, "I studied the mysteries of ceremonial magic in Bern, and during that time I did not see the sun. My teacher was somewhat unwilling to have me corrupted by the temptations of the world while I studied."

I saw that he was reluctant to reveal the name of the teacher, but I ventured to ask anyway. "Who is it you studied under?"

He paused. "It was your namesake: the Archangel Michael." I stifled a laugh, but he was ready. "No, I wish I were joking. He taught me himself. You don't have to believe me, really. But it's true." He turned around and pulled up his shirt so that I could see his back, and I was astonished to see burn marks and deep scars criss-crossing his flesh. "He was not a forgiving teacher. But he taught me many interesting things."

"I'd very much like to learn them," I said. "Can you show me anything?"

Washburn paused. "Yes, I suppose I can. When is your next break from school? We should travel some."

I told him, and gave him my information. I left that night for home.

Washburn showed up at my dorm before I left for break a few weeks later, and I threw my backpack in his car and we spent the next five days traveling, visiting sacred sites around Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

But it is proof of magic that we are after here, not a description of his character or our travels. One particular experience I had with him should show that there is a very real force behind magic, and it's not something you should mess around with.

Washburn and I did not work while we traveled. We did not cook or clean up after ourselves, because there was no need. Washburn, you see, was never really alone.

Any time we would stop for the night, or for lunch, or would get up for breakfast, he would take up a pestle from his bag, or a pen from the nightstand, or a broom from the maid's closet and would dress it in a spare set of his clothes. He would then stand it up, speak an incantation over it, and it would animate itself and would pass as though it were a man!

Washburn would then send this animation out to get food, or to bring back an item we had forgotten at the store, or to clean up the hotel room and fold our clothes. It astounds me to this day that no one ever questioned the reality of our traveling companion. When its work was done, he would recite another incantation and it would become inanimate again.

No matter what I did, or how I asked, Washburn would not teach me this one incantation, though. Before he would use it, he would send me from the room, and would tell me to not come in until the animation had gone out. He was free in telling me that it was an incantation, and free in describing what could and could not be done with the thing, but the incantation he would never surrender. Anything else, it seemed, was fair game, freely taught, but not this.

Finally, after four days of watching this miracle, I came up with an idea. I secretly hid a tape recorder under my pillow, and left it on when I was asked to leave. When the animation left, I went back in and switched it off while Washburn was busy with other things. I now had the incantation, and I listened to it as soon as I knew Washburn would not catch me.

I memorized the words well. The next night was our sixth together, and Washburn needed to go to the library in Cincinnati to look through a book, so I resolved to try it while he was out.

That night, I saw Washburn out, and immediately set to work with a mop I borrowed from the housekeeper. I dressed it in a spare set of my clothes, and said the carefully memorized incantation over it.

The mop stirred, and came to life before my eyes! I was excited, but began by ordering it to a task. The task was hurridly thought up, but I asked it to bring me ice. The mop dutifully grabbed the ice bucket and went down the hall to the ice machine. The animation brought me back the bucket, full of ice. I smiled at myself, and said, "That's enough. Thank you. I no longer need ice."

Imagine my surprise when it ignored me!

The mop headed back down the hall, filling the bucket again with ice, and brought it back to me. I repeated my command, but it continued to refill the bucket, not heeding my words at all. Soon, there was ice all over the floor of the room, and the temperature had dropped considerably.

I tried using the incantation again, but no effect was seen. It was then that I realized that Washburn must have had a second invocation to remove the animation, and I had not thought to obtain this incantation as well!

The mop continued to bring buckets of ice, one after another, and so finally I sought to break the mop. I pulled the fire axe from the hallway and attacked the mop, splitting the handle down the center. The result was that both halves stood again and went for more ice.

By now, the ice machine was empty, and they had begun venturing to the next-door gas station and grocery story to bring more ice into the room. I was at a loss. Washburn would certainly not be happy.

And his expression, when he appeared in the door, showed that I was completely right. There was betrayal in his eyes, and I was afraid of him. He did not speak to me, though; he simply turned the mops back to wood, gathered his stuff (despite my profuse apologies), and walked out. I have not seen him since.

That night, I slipped out of the hotel and got on a bus back to my college. To this day, I can still animate an object, I imagine, but I don't do so. . . Washburn did not speak the incantation that turns them back where I could hear them. I'm afriad that the same thing would happen, and I would freeze the person who asked for the demonstration with ice!

_________


1 - Fra. Grand Poobah, Chaos Magick Theory

Poll #664933 Poll 15c: Reality Is a Consensus Opinion

Is this entry true?

Yes
2(8.3%)
No
7(29.2%)
It is partially true
11(45.8%)
It is partially false
1(4.2%)
I don't know
3(12.5%)

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: "Traveling Clean", -JB

(17 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:February 2nd, 2006 12:59 pm (UTC)
(Link)
That's not where the story comes from.
[User Picture]
From:wishesofastar
Date:February 2nd, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, I never said it did. That's just the first thing it made me think of. Sort of like the time that I got in a swordfight with this chick with an eyepatch and I plucked her other eye out, but nobody would believe me because it already happened in Kill Bill.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:February 2nd, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Why would no one believe that? I'm not sure why, aside from the fact that I can't really see you using a sword. But that's just my personal bias. I imagine that few people can see me using an axe.

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