When people talk about ‘walking the path,’ I’ve come to find that they’re usually thinking or talking about some cheerful metaphor for walking the Yellow Brick Road. There’s singing and friendship and laughter; chatter about finding courage or a brain or the heart; some serious road blocks (like a sleep-inducing field of poppies, for example); and the end is always in the distance. The end is a tangible product just like the Emerald City. You can see it rapidly approaching. It’s always just right there and you’re always just within reach of this tangible goal sitting high and mighty in front of you.
However, in reality, the path is usually some dank-filled forest with far more scarier monsters than a plethora of flying monkey-men.
I call the path that I walk, The Spiritual Turnpike. This is because while there is nature all around me and a forest with moss covered trees and the spooky hooting of owls and the chill-inducing screeching of a crow, it is more like a highway. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss your exit. And by the time you realize that you miss your exit, you’re about twenty miles out of the way, in some unknown town that doesn’t even have a public restroom never mind a place to stop and stare at a map. It’s a turnpike. You pay to get on; you pay to get off. You pay while you’re on the road, too, because there are stops all over the place but the prices for gas and snacks have been jacked up a good ten percent for profit margins that you don’t care about or see.
The Fallow Time
Portions of the path that a lot people, also, tend to ignore are the quiet times. Everyone who sees this will know what I’m talking about: it’s the time that you lay fallow. It’s the time when the gods are quiet for whatever reason or the lwa are silent for whatever reason or the orisha are quiet for whatever reason. It’s the time when you do things because you’re one autopilot. It’s the time where big, huge, expansive offerings just aren’t done because you’re too busy thinking about everything else while you’re running around. It’s the time that I call ‘disconnect’ though I prefer ‘fallow time’ better, to be honest. (Fallow Time sounds less like I’ve unplugged the television.) It happens; it happens often.
And just like the crow pecking the eyes out of some carrion, it’s perfectly natural.
It took me a long while to realize that, though.
I’ve gone through this blog time and time again, amazing myself with the depth of my feeling and the lack of posts during the Fallow Time. And it amazes me how heartrendingly pathetic I was whenever I wrote about how I felt an excessively extreme (to me) Fallow Time with my gods. I think I have twelve or thirteen entries that have been tagged as “fallow time.” I can remember quite clearly time and time again having a harder and harder time communing with my gods and with myself. Hell, there was an entire four month period earlier this year where I didn’t feel moved to write anything. As I recall, it was Papa Legba, that venerable old Shit-Stir, that brought me back into the fold.
So, it’s obvious to me that it’s not a wrong turn on the Turnpike that results in this solitude. I think it’s just part and parcel with celebrating and venerating the Gods.
Someone mentioned in a post on TC (entitled, Divine Communication.) that it was quite obvious that the relationship we form with the gods is cyclical. One reason that was mentioned is because time probably passes differently for the gods. So, whilst we feel the absence for months or weeks or whatever, they may believe that they’re only gone for a short period of time–a few hours. I like the feel of this thought, but I don’t hold onto that belief myself. Something of more interest did pop up in that discussion, though: There was mention about communication being intrinsically tied into the changing of the seasons. Persephone and Demeter were mentioned as prime examples.
But it really hit me: It’d be some pretty fucking hard time to chat it up with either Hwt-Hrw or Sekhmet who are both solar deities. And of course, in the winter, the sun is nearly non-existent. You can see it peeking behind the clouds, but it’s not the same thing as in the middle of summer. So, that explains my rash of Fallow Time postings from last winter. It wasn’t just me that was the problem (though I was a key factor) going on back then; it was also the simple fact that the two of them are least likely to give two-shits about me or anyone else when it’s so motherfucking cold that you can see your breath filtering out in front of you.
Of course, in realizing this, I don’t know how this effects the lwa, in all honesty. I’ve never worked with one prior to Yon Old Shit-Stir came over to rambunctiously mess around in my life. (Think of a gamboling kitten playing in yarn? Got the image? Now, change the kitten to an old man with a cane and change the yarn to my life.) In the same thread, there’s actually something about the lwa being left to rest during Lent for some reason or another, although I’ve never heard of this. Of course. I’m not a vodouisant, either, so it stands to reason that I wouldn’t.
While the Fallow Time is a big portion to the darker parts of the path, it’s not everything. There are two aspects of dark parts, as far as I can see: those that exist because they exist or those that exist because we made a choice. The Fallow Time just happens to be a part of the section of the Turnpike that you’re already on. It’s there whether you want it to be or not; there’s no choice necessary in it. It just is.
The Fork in the Road: Choices
I think of choices as a dark time and as a dark portion of this whole path thing because often, you’re left to wonder if you made the right choice. Fuck that: you’re left to wonder all of the damn time if you made the right choice. Even years later, that single choice can come up and bite you in the ass. And you’re sitting back and thinking, “Damn. I said that I would do this and now look what happened. Did I make the right choice?” Choices, to me, are evil. The reason is simple: there are a lot of motherfucking choices at any given moment in a day, never mind when it comes to the Spiritual Turnpike. And you’re always second-guessing yourself.
And this is the choice, as I can see it: light or darkness.
That is the basis for all future choices on The Spiritual Turnpike, or near as I can figure. In taking out any minor options, we’ve left ourselves with two basic concepts. I mean, they are truly basic and honestly, it’s stupid to do that. However, that’s the very nature of the Choice Beast that we have here: the choices are so complex so much of the time that you can’t break it down to its most basic part. (Hey! Math wasn’t a complete waste of time!) So, if you start with the most basic of core concepts, it makes the decision-making process slightly easier.
You’ll still ask yourself if you did the right thing later on, though. That is also, I feel, the nature of the beast.
On the one hand, even though it’s not explicitly true, you have the sunshine and the rainbows. Those are the balloon-filled paths that people think of the Yellow Brick Road. (Honestly, if all the paths were like the YBR, then how come we all trip over the roots and land in the muck so often? Huh? Unh?) There is sunlight and laughter; there is joy and kindness; there is ignorance in darker feelings and ideas; there are unicorns and fairies and picnics. I tend to think of this choice as the Sunshine and Rainbows Path. Is it for everyone? For fuck’s sake, no. Is it for me? For fuck’s sake, I don’t know. But this is the good path, so to speak. This is the path of the White Mage in Final Fantasy, or at least, as far as I can figure. (I never played the game but I was all for 8 Bit Theatre for the longest.)
On the other hand, you have darkness and death, decay and blood. This, I feel, is more in-keeping with the Spiritual Turnpike as I’ve seen and described it, repeatedly. This is the very aspect that is Mother Nature: instead of closing our eyes at the scary parts or glossing over the death rattle, it’s walked through. It is walked along, beside, near, with, in and through. There is darkness and moonlight; there is sadness and anger; there are is hard work and fighting; there is ignorance of the prettier aspects of life; there is the Unseelie Court and dragons and the harvesting of things both living and dead. I tend to think of this choice as the Magic Mirrors Reality Path. Is it for everyone? For fuck’s sake, no. Is it for me? For fuck’s sake, I don’t know. But this is the dark path, so to speak. This is the path of the Black Mage in Final Fantasy, or as near as I can tell.
So you have the two basic concepts in order to make things easier, but you still have the doubts. You still hear the questioning uncertainty in the back of your mind. You still hear the fear pounding your heart triple-time and the taste of terror in the back of your throat as you stare down these two possibilities. It’s the very nature of choices to have doubts because, as I said, there are so many of them and they’re so complicated and it’s all so hard to sort through in a quickness. There is nothing you can do to ever get rid of those emotions. It is as it is.
And just like there is nothing anyone can do to get rid of the Fallow Time, there is nothing anyone can do to get rid of the Choice Beast. As much wishing and magic-making and eye-closing and sticking-fingers-in-the-ears as we do, it’s not going to make it go away. You can say that the monster under your bed isn’t there, but that doesn’t stop the reaction that goes on within you.
Walking a Darker Path
So, you’ve got this image in your mind about some dank filled forest with criss-crossing paths and crossroads and dead things and mushrooms and scary sounds going on behind your back. Right? It’s a pretty frightening picture, as I see things. I mean, this is the path that I knowingly tread every day. Of course, this is the path that everyone else also travels: this is the reality of the Yellow Brick Road metaphor. This is something that most people will never realize because they are too focused on the sun and the joys that come with it. Sure, I see bluejays carousing and deer walking before me just as much as the next person, but I also know that the forest isn’t just sunshine and rainbows: it is also darkness.
A large issue to walking a darker path (I really hate fucking calling it that because it sounds like these people who do this are always wearing black clothes and makeup and cackle at the full moon and have a wart on their face), so to speak, is the simple fact that most people will not and cannot understand it. I’ve been reading the blogs of a few pagans that practice this way and I find myself uncertain and curious, at the same time. I also find myself unable to understand what actually led these people into this direction. I don’t care what did, to be perfectly honest, because it’s not the who or the what that matters. It’s the fact that these bloggers like it that boggles the mind.
Yet another issue is the simple fact that you have to get your hands dirty.
I remember, as a kid, that I would go out and garden with my mother. It was a kind of bonding exercise until I became a teenager and knew everything. She always said that gardening was relaxing to her and that was something that, at the time, I didn’t understand. So, a portion of this darker path is the simple act of gardening. However, with gardening comes all of the ick-filled bugs that people tend to want to ignore. And that’s also a portion of getting your hands dirty. It would sully the experience, I think, to wear gardening gloves like I did when I gardened with my mom. (She told me that I could touch anything with gardening gloves on my hands and wouldn’t you know it? She was right.) So, you have to come to grips with the fact that in playing in the dirt, you’re probably going to touch something that you’ll be disgusted by.
Another aspect, from what I can tell, is ancestor veneration. It’s not so much the actual veneration of your ancestors (“YIPPEE! My great-great-great-great-grand uncle nine times removed was the only one in his family to survive the plague. Yay! Venerate!”), per se, as the act of taking care of the dead. Every blog that I’ve taken to reading that have a darker sense to it have something to do with death. This, I think, is because Mother Nature is death as much as she is life. And when you walk a darker path, you’re more likely to see it in action or come across it. There also seems to be a large penchant for cemetery visitations, but you know what? I’m fine with that part, too.
I’ve been drawn in this direction a lot lately. I think a lot of it has to do with a certain lwa who has made himself content with fucking around in my life. I’d like to say that this frightens me, but it doesn’t. I’ve made a choice, already, just by having him come into my life. Where is this leading, Oh Shit Stir of the Lwa? Where? I know he won’t answer me; he’s too enigmatic for something so simple as that. Not to mention, he’s only quasi-amused by the ‘shit stir’ title. (He was amused when I used it sparingly, but since he’s been stirring some more lately, I brought it back in full force. I’ll stop when I stop feeling dizzy and nauseated from all of the spinning.) And besides, it’s not like I’m allowed to know more than my cards can tell me at any given moment.
As I write all of this, (fuck; this is a long ass blog entry) I keep coming to the idea that I could be full of shit. Of course, that’s the case in anyone’s blog. It’s their personal opinion placed on the computer screen and no one else’s. So, it’s possible I could be full of shit, not just about the dark path that you can walk down but about the whole of it. But that’s the thing, you see. That’s belief right there. It can be right or it can be wrong; it can probably be both at the same time. But, that’s the point, isn’t it now?