Pagan Studies

Focusing on the Arte Magical as a practice and profession, we study various facets of magic through the lens of both classical and modern perspective. From ancient myth to urban legend to fiction and philosophy, all viewed through the eyes of a very practical magician.

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A Divine Sense of Humor


Warning: strong language is comedically used here, so this may be NSFW for some of you.

So some of you have been asking about the Sabbat story I was talking about in my previous blog post, Arguing with the Gods. There's been interest in what actually happened with that ritual. I have to admit it's a pretty funny story, so I decided to share it here.

To preface this story, please keep in mind three facts-

1. I am a hugely vain person. Not in a destructive or envious way, I simply have a number of neurotic tendencies when it comes to my appearance and public behavior. I have very long dark hair nearly to the base of my spine, and I don't like being messy or having stains or anything. Yes, I know, it's silly.

2. My relationship with Hekate is irreverant leaning towards outright offensive.

3. I have what my therapist calls "obsessive tendencies." Not OCD, by any stretch, but I am prone to irrational fixations. It's probably why I started learning magic in the first place- how else would I be able to control absolutely every little detail in my life?

Our story begins with me sitting on the couch, feeling sorry for myself. It was a Saturday night, just after Mabon, and we were having our public celebration that night. And I was sick. VERY sick.

As in "have spent the last several days in bed, called in from work, didn't even get dressed or brush my hair for three days" sick.

By the time Saturday rolled around, I was very very grumpy. I was determined, however, to do something for the Sabbat- even if it meant just sitting on my couch, hanging out in sacred space and watching Netflix with my Lady. She and I both have a fondness for ridiculously bad witchcraft films, and I thought it might be fun to watch Practical Magic (one of the less bad ones, in my opinion).

So, I've lit my candle, drawn my curtains, and put the lock upon the door, so to speak. I've set up my makeshift altar by laying a special Tarot spread using the Trumps in my deck, which is one of my favorite quick-tricks to use for setting space. I did my invoking incantation, and that's when I realized...

I looked awful.

I hadn't brushed my hair since Wednesday, I was still in pajamas, and I needed to wash my hands and face badly.

Well, I couldn't tolerate doing any sort of ritual work while looking like a ragamuffin, it just wouldn't be cricket. So, I got up, washed my face, cleaned up a bit, and then went looking for my hairbrush, to tame the mass of demon hair that would have put Bayonetta to shame.

Which is when I realized my hairbrush was nowhere to be seen.

Well- I suppose I went a bit insane, really. I started lifting furniture, tearing absolutely every cushion off the couches, looking under tables, and generally tearing the house apart. I was not going to do this ritual with a crazy mess of a mane. And honestly, I think I just really wanted to brush my hair and tell myself that everything was going to be ok. I'm a bit of a baby when I get sick, to put not too fine a point on it.

I badgered my husband (he was playing World of Warcraft, I believe, and sort of babysitting me while the rest of the family went to the public rite). He couldn't find the brush either. And I went more and more crazy as I threw books off the bookshelf, looked behind the toilet and in the tub under the shower curtains.

In the end, I was so exhausted that I started to hyperventilate a bit, and began to see spots. Yep, I was headed towards blackout time. So, I managed to put the pillows and cushions back on the couch, move some of them into a head-rest position, and then it was "nighty-night, Rune."

Whereupon I was greeted in the dark empty between space of my dreams by none other than Hekate.

Smiling at me.


To say the least, I was not pleased. I began shrieking and cursing at her, yelling all sorts of incomprehensible things. The gist was something like "EXCUSE me, but do not think for one SECOND that this kind of heavy-handed behavior will be tolerated! I do not work for you, I work WITH you, and you WILL treat me with respect! And WHERE'S MY #%@$ING BRUSH!?"

Now, I've been a lucid dreamer since I was a child, and have maintained that skill up into adulthood. I was aware I was dreaming, and that this was a visitation. Make no mistake- I knew exactly what was happening. In part, that was probably why I was so angry.

This was further compounded when She, still smiling at me amusedly, tried to offer some help by tossing me my brush with something casual like "Oh, that? Here, don't worry about it, let me just give you your brush back."

I stared at Her, and at the dream-vision version of my brush, and then I absolutely lost whatever calm and reserve I had left. When I lose my patience and my calm, I become very caustic- I get quiet and sarcastic, I become useless to anyone, and abrasive to everything around me. Hence my response:

"Oh. Thank you ever so much, your Divine Eminence. This will help immensely as I try to comb out the FIGMENTS in my HAIR!"  (insert yet another long stream of expletives)

Now, this part was an interesting and new experience for me.

Hekate has a gift She sometimes passes to Her chosen, from what I understand. I myself have used it from time to time, but I've never been on the business end of it until now.

I call it "the Eye."

It's something like the "mom-stare" that people talk about, only... it's also something like the center of a tornado. I felt like the entire world dwindled down to only Her gaze. I felt pinned against a wall (although there were none in this vision), and I felt honestly about three inches tall.

She very quietly spoke. "Do you doubt your own powers?"

I found my courage, and began to respond angrily again, albeit a bit petulantly. "Let's see. I've been sick for three days, I'm missing a major Sabbat ritual which I hate to do, I feel like crap, and I've just spent the last thirty minutes tearing my house apart and practically pushing myself into a coma because I couldn't find my GODDAMNED BRUSH! And now, I'm passed out on the sofa! Yeah, I'm feeling pretty weak and insecure right about now. I'd say it's a safe assessment that I doubt my powers!"

Then, the Eye shifted to more of a sad expression, although still very fascinating.

"Do you doubt Mine?"

Now how am I supposed to respond to that!?


So, for the rest of my vision (which is very hazy, to be honest), I felt like an ashamed little boy, while Hekate gave me the aforementioned warning which I shared in "Arguing." Winter was coming, prepare yourself, blah blah blah.

I woke up bleary, unhappy, and generally in a bad mood. I blew out the candle, picked up my cards, and spent the next hour watching True Blood on my computer with an expression on my face that could probably curdle milk.

When my boyfriend came home (I'm polyamorous, and have two husbands who live with me, and three boyfriends, two of whom do not live with me), he could tell I was upset. I had called him at the ritual and asked him to check our friend's car and my work room at the store on his way home, in case I left my brush somewhere on Wednesday.

Him: "Eee... you look awful. Guess you didn't find your brush, then."

Me: "No. And clearly you didn't either, or you wouldn't have asked."

Him: "Yeah, it wasn't in the car or at the store, sorry."

At which point, he stepped over to the couch where I had previously been napping, to try to comfort me and make me feel better. He moved the cushions I had been using as pillows, so he could sit down next to me...

...and found my brush, laying underneath them.

The moral of the story, for me, was the same lesson I have to remind myself of in every interaction I have with my loved ones. Faith, patience, and a courageous sense of humor are necessary traits for survival and for magic. Just because some details don't go the way we want, doesn't mean that things won't work out the way we desire in the end. Trusting in the good around us, learning to laugh and take things less personally, are a big step on the road to mastery of oneself and one's life. Indeed, part of a good spell is the part at the end where you get out of the way and let the powers do their job.

I hope the story entertained you. I still smile when I think about it, which I do whenever I start to doubt myself or my experiences.

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S. Rune Emerson has been practicing witchcraft and sorcery since the early 90's, and has been teaching since 2004. He is the founder of the Risting Tradition of American Witchcraft, which is a large title for a small local tradition based in Northern Nevada. He also heads a coven tradition called the Cabal of Nocturne, and works as a diviner at Pathways Spirit, a metaphysical shop in Reno. He likes to describe his life as "extraordinarily simple." He is fond of observing that magic as a profession is the somewhat honest alternative to those of the same mindset as criminals- smart, lazy, and prone towards thinking outside the box, often in areas of questionable morality. He believes in a strong standard of accountability in magical practice, and has very strict ethics. He's also very opinionated about nearly everything.


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