Well, I’m in Grants Pass from now ‘til the end of Christmas, spending time with my friend Johnathan and his mother, which means no returning to Roderick or any overtly Witchy things for a small while. I did, however, bring one book with me: Phyllis Curott’s memoir, Book of Shadows. This memoir, published in 1998, describes how Curott discovered Wicca in the 1970s and how her first circle, the Mother Grove of the Minoan Sisterhood, developed. The narrative largely follows one year of time, from when Phyllis first begins attending a forming women’s circle at the prompting of witch friend Sophia and some psychic syncronicity to her first initiation. At the same time, the memoir interweaves a story of material pursuit—Curott’s first high-powered job as a Manhattan attorney for the music business—with her story of spiritual pursuit. In fact, some of the memoir’s finest moments are where the two pursuits augment or come into conflict with each other.
I’ve read this book before—it’s one of my favorites—and I made good headway in a re-reading this morning as I waited for Johnathan to wake up. This go-through, I found myself paying a lot of attention to the time line of how Curott’s priestesses set up the time line of their lessons. For example, they take about a season just in practicing visualizations. As Curott wrote after describing a circle mate’s question of when they would begin to do magic:
We’d been working for several weeks mastering exercises like the one this evening. After using our breathing techniques to quiet our busy minds, we had moved on to simple meditations, learning to focus on specific images and to visualize them with precision and clarity. We’d imagined walking down spiral staircases and through heavy oak doors. We’d sat in arcadian glades and bathed in crystal pools. We’d even been given visualization homework, and I was able to hold the images clearly for quite some time. Gradually, I began to experience them with more of my “inner” senses, turning them three-dimensionally in my mind’s eye, tasting the apples, feeling the heat of the candle, smelling the rain-soaked grass. We were all hungry for more complex challenges. (70)
Of course, Curott’s priestess replies “What do you think we’ve been doing? […] Without mastering these basics, your magic won’t work. It’ll be like trying to drive a car without turning the key in the ignition, or steering, or being able to see out the window” (70).
You know, I think I’m driving blind. It’s been a long time since I’ve done some visualization exercises, and I’m growing weaker in that skill—it’s definitely something you have to practice! So I think I’m going to make it a January goal to do some visualizations every day or so. More on that in the future, I’m sure.