I dreamt of a large round banquet table covered in burgundy cloth. I was the only one seated there. Unseen servants brought covered dishes and filled the table with them such that there was only space for my small serving plate and a wine goblet filled with pure water.
One by one, the servants would lift a cover and offer me what was under it as the butler, also unseen, stood beside my high-backed chair and explain the offering.
Each offered dish was some sort of insect, spider, or worm. Some cooked and prepared. Some still alive.
“These are common earthworms from organic gardens. They are not poisonous to you, however their acidity is such that consumption of great quantities are not suggested. Their taste and texture will make a pleasing contrast with the grilled locusts from Egypt.”
“Moth grubs from the old forests in the Iberian peninsula. Normally a high source of protein and eaten raw or baked, these particular grubs were fed an exclusive diet of amanita muscaria before collection and sauteing. As you have never encountered amanita muscaria before, I suggest only having one, should you have any at all.”
I wound up selecting an assortment of sauteed vegetables and mayflies to go with a main dish of spicy grilled spiders and locusts offered with a dipping sauce made from yogurt and maggots. I passed on the amanita laced grubs.
After I ate, I looked up to see a back-lit silhouette of a man standing across the table. His voice came clear to me. “Did you eat well?”
I was honest with my reply. “I did.”
“This is not the diet you are used to.”
“No… but things change. And I should try new things anyway. Who knows, I might find something I like! I did not expect the spiders to taste like crab, for instance. Are you the lord of this house? Thank you for the experience.”
“Your experience has only begun. Remember, you always have the right to decline what is offered to you. You will not insult me as long as you are clear with yourself why you take this or refuse that.”
The light behind the man faded and he became one with the shadows surrounding me. The butler removed my soiled serving plate and laid a small silver platter in its stead. On the platter was my phone with the clock app active. The displayed time was one minute prior to my alarm.
I was already reaching for the phone when the alarm did go off. I recalled the dream and realized none of the characters within it had identified themselves or allowed me to see symbols that I could look up later. As much as I wanted to give the dream weight and significance, I mentally filed it under “noise” because it all felt too good to be true after yesterday’s experience and got up to prepare for this morning’s ritual.
All day yesterday, I had inspected my reaction to Cyprian’s name. I felt foolish and childish both for my panic and the paranoia response that followed. I’m a slightly read “magician” after all. I have been exposed to enough history, myths, and first-hand accounts to understand that Cyprian is not the boogeyman. It did not help that many private responses to the post were questioning why I was being so overdramatic about an entity that the questioner has had nothing but positive experiences with.
That’s nice for them. I haven’t. This is all new to me. And this is snatching the scab off some emotional and psychological wounds I incurred in the Christian churches and cults that led to my apostasy. I have no idea what kind of world I am in. The Christianity I have experienced in the past six months is not the Christianity I was taught to yield to and abide by decades ago. And what I was taught of Cyprian then was that he was an Evil Pagan Sorcerer™ who got his ass kicked, converted, and swore he would never do anything evil again like summon spirits, try to get laid, or defy the Pope. I was also taught that modern day Evil People™ (read: all y’all reading this post) make the claim that St. Cyprian never put away his evil things, and that St. Cyprian the Sorcerer was just Satan in a new dress singing the same old song of temptation and if I did so much as look in his general direction because of my propensity for supernatural experiences, I would be snatched up, forced into his retinue, and be damned forevermore, amen.
I did not realize just how deep I had internalized the proscription and fears associated with it until after yesterday’s ritual as I forced my concerns into words to share with close friends and associates. I remembered other entities I had been explicitly warned against approaching for much of the same reasoning. My head is too open and I would be pressed into service against my will. Funny enough, one of those proscribed entities I can point to as the main reason why I am still alive. Okay. I’ll get over this, too.
«Are you afraid?»
“Well, that’s a stupid question. And the wrong question to ask in these circumstances.”
«Instruct me. What is the right question in this circumstance?»
Why you cheeky shit… “Am I going to continue with my obligation? And the answer to that is ‘yes’.”
«Until the hazel wand is completed and fed, I cannot continue.»
“Agreed. Yesterday was a one-off fueled by fury and emotions. I was out of control and very close to hurting myself. It wasn’t until last night when I recorded the event that I saw how you shut me down.”
[Patient Caller] did not move from his usual station. There were no gestures in response to my statement of accusation. I was hoping at least for some communication of snark. He remained stoic and silent. I continued in his stead.
“So… ‘Gracious is the Lord’, eh? I’m using prayers from the Psalms as munitions, so it would stand to reason that you, [with your rank], would also have access to the same. Especially with Saint Cyprian above you. Grace to counter my fury. Holiness to counter my hostility. Might to put me in check. And down I go.”
The spirit lowered his head and chuckled. «You learn fast.»
“Or maybe I’m remembering.” In light of recent events, old memories revealed new information. “So, no action scenes today, then. Just discussion, please. Now that I’ve accepted on whose gameboard I’m playing, lemme ask about an NPC. [Mud.] There was indication that communication with you would lead to me learning how to deal with would-be attachments like [Mud] both as prevention and as a more effective cure. Is that correct?”
«Yes, that is correct.»
“Any other lessons on the syllabus that will use him as an example?”
«There may be others. Though the instruction may exceed the thirty days you have allotted.»
“I was wondering when the subscription plan would be offered. We’ll have that conversation later. I think I already know the answer to this question after yesterday’s plot twist, but I’mma ask it anyway because I want the truth. [O Patient Caller], is [Mud] your servant? Does he answer to you?”
I could barely see his smile, but the emotion soaked the table. «Yes.»
I just sighed. A long intake of breath followed by an expulsory shrug. “Did you set him on me after the Birto working?”
I was surprised that I was not angry. I had no hostile or contrary emotion or reaction to the confirmation of what I had suspected. I was almost amused by the matter-of-fact way the spirit was answering. I felt like I had to say something, but I could think of no prim and proper response. So I fell back on one of my favorite phrases. “Yer an asshole.”
[Patient Caller] stretched his hands and reclasped them behind the shewstones in a dramatic display. «Yes.»
Once again, the glint of the ring on his right little finger caught my attention. I realized that despite the spirit having claimed the small amber piece for his exclusive use, I continued to set out the now ignored rutile quartz in ritual. An epiphany ran hot with excitement. “It’s for him.” I looked up at the spirit’s face. “The amber is yours alone, and the quartz is for anyone else invited to the table. That’s why the amber had to be worked to meet your requirements, but the quartz only requires a soft cushion. The cushion is a chair. An invitational chair!”
The spirit nodded. «Yes.» His happy confirmation encouraged me.
“I guess I better order that cushion then. Ah, since I’m going to get more tarot bags at the same shop, there goes my budget. Again.” It felt good to laugh. “Right. I’m out of questions for this morning, and probably out of time as well. No progress without the completed hazel wand, so I’ll get on that. You, mister, no emotional strafing, eh.”
I gave the Apophenia Invitation and the License to Depart. His presence remained until the last ‘amen’ when the mental scene softly darkened and I felt alone in the room again. Psalm 54 was delivered to bring the ritual to and end, and after putting the gear away, I crawled back in bed to sleep dreamlessly for another three hours.
Total time: 36 minutes.