We’ve had it in for magic for a while, I know its been on the decline throughout my life. We love technical wizardry, the comfort all of our cool stuff brings. But real magic? We don’t need it anymore. Too many of us are driven by the need to survive, to achieve. If magic can’t be a useful stepping stone we’re not interested in it. Perhaps thats why magicians have become so rare.
The Seals are calling me back again. When I met with them they were deeply saddened by my absence. They were as lonely for me as I was for them.
I’ve known quite a few magicians in my life, we just seem to find our way to each other. All of them have the ability to receive and interact with the powers of the natural world in a way that lets them produce wonder, healing, raw transformative power. Often their skill is made more miraculous by the fact that almost all were self trained. Very few had any guidance from mature magicians, save that which they could glean from books or movies. Almost all found a way into the world of magic on their own, usually at a very young age. It is no wonder that magicians have also been called “cunning ones” throughout the ages. They know instinctively how to suss things out. They always find a way into the truth of something.
Truth be told I’m ashamed of how rarely I journey to them. They have opened up everything to me. I am a very poor cousin.
Magic is inseparable from the wildness of the world, maybe thats part of the reason our culture hides from it. I suspect that is all magic really is: our relationship to true wildness. It is in the movement of water over rocks, the way fire travels, the song of soil remaking itself across eons. When we find resonance with wildness, we embody magic. When our souls demand we be seduced by wildness, lose our hearts to it, thats when a magician is born.
Speaking of “the ages” I bet most magicians were very long lived throughout said ages. When you tap into that power you open the door to learn many of life’s secrets, including how to live easily with the world, how to be nourished by it even during hard times. Sadly the opposite seems to be true for this age. Of all the magicians I know from my youth, at least half are dead. Drug overdoses and death by suicide seems to be the way they go.
I think they worry about me, worry that they’ll lose me like they’ve lost all the others.
The danger usually begins when they forget who they are. They know they have to make sacrifices to be in this world. They take jobs that don’t make sense, stay in relationships that imprison them or at least impoverish their spirits. Eventually the momentum of the fake life they’ve conjured takes over and they start to believe its who they really are. Thats the beginning of the end. They forget how to feed the magic, how to find their way back into the wilderness that loves them. Instead they drink or do drugs or just live in lies until they can’t breath any more. They choke themselves out of existence.
They are mirrors for how we treat the wildness of nature. Perhaps it’s a latent nihilism of some kind in our culture. We run from that which feeds us most deeply. Magicians must constantly barter with this illness, make bargains that let them extract a moment more of life, all while they’re losing ground. Is nature losing ground? Maybe, but humanity is much more fragile than wildness.
What am I really running from when I run from my cousins at sea?
The image above is of a statue depicting Kópakonan, a woman from the Faroes Islands who lived first as a Seal and then as a human. It follows the well known story of a Seal who transforms into a human only to be trapped in that form by a man who steals her Seal skin. She gives him children but eventually finds her way back to the Ocean to reclaim what she feels is her true form. Her human husband forgets one day to lock the chest where he has hidden her skin. Rushing home from fishing he discovers her gone, forever.
Kópakonan returns to the sea and mates almost immediately with a great Seal bull who has always loved her. Together they have several pups, though she watches her human children on the shore when the opportunity presents itself. The Faroes people believed that the Seals were descended from the souls of people who died by suicide in the ocean. Perhaps this endowed them with additional spiritual abilities. When her human husband planned to slaughter a pod of Seals with his fellow fishermen, a pod that included her husband and children, she visits him in a dream and warns him off from this foolish act.
He of course ignores her. He has not made peace with losing her, probably has not made peace with the original theft that gave him his children. He and his friends slaughter her husband and children as planned. Upon discovering this she sets down a mighty curse.
“Here lie the head of my husband with his broad nostrils, the hand of Hárek and the foot of Fredrik! Now there shall be revenge, revenge on the men of Mikladalur, and some will die at sea and others fall from the mountain tops, until there be as many dead as can link hands all round the shores of the isle of Kalsoy!”
Once you’ve become intimate with wildness, you turn your back on her at your own peril.
So begins a curse that followed Faroes men for generation after generation. Magic is not a passive force in life, it interacts with us always. It will not be ignored forever. If abused it can turn ferocious in its own way. We are seeing that now, as global warming makes many events in nature less predictable. Our food sources become less reliable. Ancient bacteria are thawed after millenia of sleep. Magic fights back.
Sometimes I feel like that fisherman, left on the shore with his children as his wife returns to the sea. My late wife belonged more to wildness than to me, I think that was plain for anyone to see. When she took her skin and left it was as if I returned home to find her gone, she never said goodbye, she was just gone. I held the children and we all wept, knowing she would not return, though she might visit us in dreams.
Unlike the fisherman I will never turn my back on the magic that she knew so well. Though it took her from me I will always revere it. I will return to visit her and the others, return to the ocean and my cousins there in any way that I can. I may be landbound but I can still leave this shore for a time. I’ve made it this far in my romance with the magic of the world, theres no reason to turn back now.
I hope you and yours can find a way to make peace with the wildness of this world. Keep your eyes out for magicians, see that they survive. They hold many keys for us. As a teacher of mine once said:
“Wildness is our salvation.”
This is dedicated to all of the magicians in my life, living and dead. I love you so. I hope that you may feel the great love that wildness and our Creator has for you, every moment of your existence.
Blessings to you and yours during this time of great change.