I settled down after work and obligations with a queue of podcasts, the incomplete cord, and a ruler. I had left off with five and a half feet of braided cord, and now that I had my groove, I was confident that I would finish quickly. Eighty minutes into the ninety-five minute podcast, I tied off the whipping knot. Total length of the cord itself is nine feet plus half an inch. When I include the silver hook and eye, the complete length is nine feet and three inches. A set of numbers that is very pleasing to me.
To call it a cord is misleading. A braid of three thin strands, it is thinner than a shoelace. But the hemp braid is not delicate, and will withstand both being left on the floor as well as ritual bindings. As I washed and dedicated the cord for ritual use, I understood why I had to make it myself after all.
During the morning ritual, [Patient Caller] appeared across the table so vividly, he felt solid and “real”. Only his lack of color (save for the rings), the false candle flame, and the looping of the smoke from the candle around his right little finger before entering the amber shewstone gave away his intangible nature.
«Well done. You have met me halfway.» He allowed me the indulgence of being proud of myself. «Now, we begin.»
Three months ago, I (and others) summoned Birto to seek “treasure”. For me, that treasure was knowledge of a certain spirit I kept dreaming here and there over several years that always appeared veiled across a closed book that was out of reach. When Birto manifested, I asked him a three part question. “Who” was the spirit? “How” would I make contact? And “why” did the spirit want to reach me?
Birto later answered that [Patient Caller] was the spirit, that I would use the Book of Oberon to make contact, and that the spirit wanted to “teach me this [grimoire] art”. It was the latter portion of the answer that I openly doubted, causing Birto to be greatly angry with me and daring me to summon him again on the second auspicious day. He declared that before I summoned him again, I would have confirmation of the answers he gave. He was correct.
I have challenged [Patient Caller] before about his instructions and motives. Despite all the personal and third party divination before beginning and while continuing this series indicating that it is (still) relatively safe to proceed, I can’t forget the Rule Zero of any kind of spirit work: Spirits lie.
«That is… if you wish to continue. Or we can complete your thirty day commitment by staring at each other every morning.»
To be honest, I hadn’t planned things out this far. This level of interaction was penciled in my schedule as a day twenty-nine event. As I watched the smoke flow around his finger into the amber, I noted two facts. One, I have no idea where to go from here. And two, the smoke is not interacting with the quartz.
“For someone who wanted a soft, fluffy thing for the quartz to rest on, you suddenly have no interest in it.”
«The amber is suitable for me now, thank you. I much prefer it. Others may prefer the quartz. As you lack the tools and the skill to alter it, dressing it up would be suitable. Should you continue. Shall you continue?»
“… You have eighteen days to help me decide.”
As he clasped his hands together and leaned forward, the smoke encircling his right little finger ignited, solidified, and cooled into the form of a small gold signet ring. The presence of the ring was such that it struck my senses as being more real than I was. He followed my line of sight, lifted his hand, and twisted the ring gently.
«Do not be quick to seek a physical reflection of this. For once you acquire and seal this ring, I will never leave you.»
The sudden severity in his words surprised me. I already live a spirit-haunted life. What is one more, right? “Okay. I won’t. But I am going to remind you that you said until I polished the amber and replaced the circle cord that you could do nothing more for me. Well, here we are at the halfway point. What’s next?”
«You will have need of a hazel wand, worked to fit you and your hand. The [Book of Oberon] contains the basic instruction you will need. If you do not have a length of hazel wood at least twice the length of your hand already, you shall have to purchase one. Do not be dismayed at your less than traditional means of acquiring the wood. Remember the lesson of the cord. But until you have the hazel at hand, I can do nothing more.»
As the closing of the allotted time approached, I closely observed his departure. First his shadowy form of a man drifted into so much cool smoke. The smoke faded away except for the stream from the falsely lit candle which now circled the nearby polished amber. The candle extinguished, and the last of the false smoke circled the amber before falling into the polished surface with a movement that reminded me of visualizations of stellar material falling into a black hole.
Total ritual time: 37 minutes.
After putting away the tools and completing the most important ritual of the day (Coffee!), I was miffed that every time [Patient Caller] mentioned the hazel wand, he would say something to imply there was no shame in buying a piece of unworked wood. How rude of him when I have a length of hazel wood right…
The drawer where I used to keep my magical, wooish, esoteric, and otherwise “alternative” items was empty. I had forgotten that earlier this year, I had cleaned out that drawer and either sold, gave away, or threw away items that I had been keeping for years because I thought my spiritual and/or magical path was going to be aligned with certain traditions that never opened up to me. What remained after that purging and was not immediately needed went into storage.
I swung by the storage lot on the way to work to look for it and verified it was neither at home nor in storage. I was angry at myself for not checking when the rod first came to mind and I was concerned I would not be able to buy a length of hazel and have it arrive before the end of the month. I consoled myself with the observation that my mindset had changed significantly over the past twelve days and that I really did not feel any less for having to buy a hazel rod. It just meant I would have to do more to make the replacement rod feel significant.
The nearly hour long commute to work was dominated by cool weather and thoughts about rings and identities. I normally wear a total of four rings, but since I began the challenge, the early morning antics have caused my hands to swell and I have only been able to wear one of the four. The spirit’s admonition to refrain from obtaining “his” ring led me to reflect on what my present rings mean to me.
One is the first piece of jewelry I bought with my money for my desires. One is a reminder that I live a spirit-filled life. One was a gift from a now distant friend, that reminds me that doing the right thing can be the most painful thing to do. And one is confirmation that I am more than I allow myself to believe I am. Of these four that I have been able to wear without issue for years, now only the last one slides on and off easily. The others either won’t slide on, or the finger swells dangerously after donning it.
I conclude in my distracted daydreaming that I have had the marks of my identity removed from me and I wonder what would be the consequence of obtaining [Patient Caller’s] ring after all. If rings are marks of identity, what part of mine will change upon acquisition of his?
Of course, I immediately feel a heavy weight on my right little finger, as if a dense metal was circling it. Several hours and fifty miles removed from the morning ritual, the memory that accompanied the sensation was as sharp and pointed as the moment it was laid.
For once you acquire and seal this ring, I will never leave you.
I push the spontaneous panic to the side. I have to pretend to be a responsible adult for the next nine hours, after all. This is not the time to have a crisis of identity. I do pause my responsible facade during lunch to quickly find a seller of hazel rods (and other goods) that can send an plain piece of hazel wood to me before the thirty days have concluded. The task completed, I continue adulting with adult purpose.
When I arrive home, I get my work gear from the trunk of the car. I note some of the other contents in the trunk have shifted and I see a craft tote I had overlooked during the morning ransacking of the storage lot. The tote was under a larger bag containing emergency breakdown gear. Inside the craft tote were a pair of all-grip gloves, a small set of files and rasps, a rough work towel, and the unaltered length of hazel rod I had been holding on to all these years.
I stood quietly holding the thin shaft of wood without comment. After looking over the hazel and reveling in the memory of how I acquired it along with the memory of the replacement I had already purchased, I saw a problem with the aged wood and understood why the spirit had been pushing for a purchased replacement.
It’s too thin.
For all its length, it is as thin as a chopstick at the tip and as thick as my little finger at the base. It certainly does not meet the requirement to be as “thick as my thumb” as suggested by the book. I put the rod back in the tote, and place the tote back in the car. This will be settled by a discussion with the spirit in the morning. That, or aggravated.
Once home, I prepare to type this entry. As I take off the sole ring I was able to wear today and lay it with the others, I reflect on what changes this endeavor is going to create in my life, and if those alterations will be to my benefit, [Patient Caller’s] benefit, or both.
I’d give a fifth of twenty-year-old rum right now to have a face-to-face sit down with my more experienced peers and betters and just pick their brain with a thousand questions. For once, I don’t care if I’m laughed at, if I’m mocked, or even belittled for asking the stupid fucking questions that I should have asked in the beginning. I’m finally realizing I am so deep in the sea that there is little light left.
If I’m going to swim my way out, I’m going to have to trust the predator that led me here.