I became conscious of death, as a phenomenon, though I am not sure how or why that awareness came. I was four years old and obsessed with the purpose of incarnation and the nature of reality. If we die, then why do we live?
The irrational avoidance of the obvious on the part of grownups around me did not bode well. Whenever I posed the ‘big questions’ to the adults to which I had access, their anxious evasion sounded an alarm that echoed like dark ripples on a bottomless pool: I was alone.
I had never heard of reincarnation, but instinctively understood that was the deal. This certainty arose together with the urgent sense that it was extremely important to remember my own incarnational history. In order to live the life upon which I was then embarking, such memories were imperative. I was SUPPOSED to remember and it drove me insane that I could not – those memories were just out of reach, behind a barrier that I could almost see around, but not enough for clarity or satisfaction.
I imagined traveling the globe, collecting all of the bones from all of the bodies I had ever dwelt within and gathering them all into a giant bone pile, which I would sit and contemplate.
Family photos from those days reveal no more than the trusting smile of a four-year old girl, with big eyes and baby fat and patent leather Mary-Janes (I was crazy about those! Had a pair in red!) but I was up against an existential wall. Half conscious yearnings leapt like phantom flames from the embers of my secret heart; images of ‘my people’ arriving to take me to their sacred place where wise, familiar souls understood, who would teach and know me.
That did not happen.
So I searched within. For a period of time – it is difficult to say how long it was – surely days, maybe weeks, I engaged in a profoundly concentrated sort of walking prayer. Enjoying our wild, over-grown and spacious back yard in early summer, I paced around and around and around, casting a line – fishing for ‘signs of intelligent life in the Universe;’ looking for contact, for sanity, for knowledge, for confirmation.
One evening, as my mother sang in her exquisite Welsh soprano while preparing supper, I wandered, in the course of my inner questing, up the hill and stopped, facing the rock garden she had planted near the fence separating our yard from the neighbors’. I’d been deep in prayer, this ‘walking supplication,’ the psychic radar scan which was my laser focus during that pivotal season of my fourth year.
Half in a trance, I stood facing South after the sun had set – the time of no shadows – when my intense efforts paid off. I got a bite on the cosmic line I had been casting out into the Ocean of Eternity.
As I stood, that blessed evening, facing the rock garden and wire fence and the Forrestie’s adjacent yard beyond, suddenly what felt like something of a cone descended over my head and shoulders, while simultaneously I rose up in a sort of elongation into that cone of energy. I was entirely ‘me’ – as adult as I will ever be – that I was in a four-year old body was irrelevant; the moment was outside of linear time and personality. As I rose into the cone, or the cone descended down over me, I received a message, a communication that can only be translated as a resounding affirmation, a transcendent ‘YES,’ that built into a rising crescendo; a climax of knowing, of contact, of positive reassurance and promise. During that defining moment I was entirely immersed in this silent thunder. Yes, yes, yes, yes! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES YES!!!!!!!!
The power peaked and ceased, the cone withdrew and I came ‘back down’ into my normal size and awareness. I was ecstatic and excited and relieved and inspired and forever married to the loving source of that essential blessing.
Two decades later I met the beings who made contact with me that day.
* * *
Summer Solstice, sometime after we retrieved as much of your light as we could, in the ritual which marked an initiation for me and a rebirth for you, we were invited by our friend, Ben Watts (the beautiful Lieutenant) to a champagne party on the piers in Williamsburg. We were all to wear white and be fabulous.
You were in a scowly, anti-social mood and had no interest in going, though I cajoled and coerced you, and, in true Cancerian fashion, you appeared, at any rate, to have a marvelous time. So freely you expressed your affection when we were in a social setting, or on display, while in private so much less forthcoming. Alas.
Returning home, we stopped at the Cedar Tavern for something to eat. As we approached the pub on that warm, first night of Summer, a young man around our age, also dressed in white, looked at me with an intense, puzzled expression and asked, “Shannon?” I stopped and asked him if he was addressing me. He seemed a little dazed and after a minute replied that he .. thought I’d been someone he knew. As we proceeded to our destination you said something about the (Scots) Grays – you thought he’d been among us then, perhaps that had been my name (but Shannon is a decidedly Irish name, so who TF knows…) It was a strange and electric night, however, and – on this longest day of the year I recall, for the first time in ages, the bizarre and disturbing demonstration of conjuring what you said were poison toads, underneath a napkin, as we sat across from one another at the table in the Cedar fucking Tavern.
“We used to slap them on the backs of enemies,” you said, as napkin after napkin seemed to come alive with something small and moving inside it.
“Get rid of it!” I whisper-cried every time (maybe four?) you played at that.
Which you did, only to manifest what you said was another such critter, which, without a doubt, looked like a small toad moving inside the freakin’ napkin.
The episode concluded, as we prepared to settle the bill, when you exclaimed in a muted voice about a burning in your hands, and you held them out to me. A grey-white, pearlescent substance oozed out from under your fingernails, and eventually from the palms, themselves. We wiped it off, used water, yet it continued to ooze forth, apparently causing great discomfort.
I didn’t go to there to fight. I went to Jerusalem to heal.
There was, however, an epic battle that I ended up participating in, much to my mind-blowing surprise…. Got hit in that one and ended up at Shaare Zedek – The Gates of Righteousness – an Orthodox Hospital, on Shabat FFS, when it’s pared down to a skeleton crew. The nurses all insisted on speaking to me in Arabic, for some reason.
Anyway, one day I had a very intense dream – a morning dream, right before I woke up.
It was filled with a strong golden light. In the dream I met a being, a kind of … dwarf / gnome type guy… I don’t want to be disrespectful – from a species like ours but smaller in stature. He was a serious effing dude, no nonsense, rather gruff. He told me his name. I asked him for a ‘boon;’ I literally used the word, ‘boon,’ in the dream. He was all, “Fuck you, no boons for you,” type thing. I explained to him that it was NOT for me, that I was asking on behalf of a young man. Begrudgingly, he agreed.
So – that was kind of a wild dream. But, you know, whatev…got dressed and headed downtown, somewhat later than planned.
My bus had such a beautiful route to downtown Jerusalem – past olive groves and Mt Zion – a lovely ride, around 20 minutes or so….At one point a group of school children clamored aboard and one of them sat down next to me; a skinny, adolescent boy with straight, light brown hair and an unsmiling, reserved demeanor… He sat on the aisle, to my right, and turned his back to me as he fished out a crumpled piece of paper and read a note, written in a kid’s awkward hand, in English. Being naturally extremely nosy, I could not help but read it over the boy’s shoulder; it seemed to be a continuation of some metaphysical discussion the he had been engaged in with whoever the note-writer was… some type of junior high, meta-philosophical debate…Being nosy and lonely and something of a metaphysician myself, naturally I butted in and spoke to him. I said something about the logic of the argument (it involved an example of cats, I think? Not in reference to Schrodinger or in any scientific/quantum-meta theoretical sense but, if my memory serves, the writer posed some issue related to incarnational trajectories, a la Hindu/Buddhist cosmologies.) I addressed the lad in English, interjecting some point of logic overlooked by his friend, the note writer. His response was guarded, surprised and excited, at the same time. My young companion’s first reply was to explain that he’d intentionally selected me to sit next to because he thought I looked among the least likely to be able to read English, of the passengers he scanned upon boarding. A lot of folks in Israel thought I was Yemenite…
As soon as I engaged him in conversation he immediately launched into a measured but relentless barrage of questions about various metaphysical subjects. Had I read this book, or studied that discipline, and what did I think about that other thing? His Russian accent and imperfect English, an innocence natural to his age overlaid with a heavy, world-weariness and impressive knowledge of a range of esoteric subjects was at once endearing, intriguing and disconcerting.
He was 15 years old, a recent immigrant from Kazakhstan. He got off the bus where I did and followed me up Jaffa Street, like a puppy…
I didn’t quite know what to do – he was clearly starving for contact, so I gave him my phone number and said he could call me at any time.
His call later that evening caught me by surprise, having forgotten about the whole encounter. (I’d been on my way to a meeting with one of my professors that afternoon, which had shoved the strange interpolation of meeting the boy down the menu of items requiring immediate attention.) Surprise quickly morphed into a familiar sense of surreality as he began to explain a bit about his background. After a short while I realized that I was dealing with some sort of a bona fide boy magician. In the course of his exposition he mentioned something about a sword he had been given, and I heard myself asking him, in a tone one might use to ask a first grader about their day at school,”Was it a magic sword?” “Yes,” he answered softly. He was at once vulnerable and tough and searching for understanding and communion with an urgency that I understood all too well. I literally sank to my knees, resting on the cold marble floor in my sparsely furnished living room, holding the heavy, black, old fashioned telephone receiver in my lap, in shock.
It was the first time I’d come into direct contact with anyone from those circles outside of my own crew, much less a fucking kid, and given the PTSD I had escaped to the Holy Land to resolve, it ended up filed under “WTF.”
Things were pretty normal after that, I was working and studying, he was my ‘little friend,’ and I would buy him lunch and stuff.
Kind of like a big sister type thing. Mother, sister, friend. At one of those lunches, I mentioned the dream I’d had hours before we met.
“He told you his name??” asked the boy, who corrected my pronunciation of it.
“He’s my friend. I met him in the mountains, when I used to go up there.” His tone conveyed a controlled sense of amazement and .. protection, in a way, of his special bond with the being I had met in the dream, as if I’d snuck into a secret clubhouse. Still, he seemed pleased.
The mundane routine into which we had fallen resumed until, over the course of a few weeks, during which I was heavy into a neurotic obsession with a project I was working on, some Dead Sea Scrolls paper, he called repeatedly with what struck me as an odd series of questions about rather abstract subjects; God and destiny and I forget exactly what..
I answered in a regrettably condescending way, assuring him that we would be able to speak after I completed my ‘terribly important’ work…
He kept calling with these kinds of questions, and I kept blowing him off.
One day he called and said he needed to speak to me in person, would I meet him? He had to ask me something. I understood it was important, and agreed.
We meet at a cafe and he tells me the following story:
(He lived in a suburb outside of the city, in the desert just outside Jerusalem. Ma’ale Adumim. Lived with his mother, who he had supported in Russia by working as a fucking computer programmer. The kid was a genius.) Anyway .. The phone in his apartment had been shut off because his mother couldn’t pay the bill for a while, so he had been using a phone booth near his house. Cell phones were more common in Israel than in the states, at that time, but not yet so ubiquitous as to extend to poor, immigrant teenagers.
So one day he was in the phone booth and the phone rang.
He answered it, and some guy on the other end addressed him by name, in English. My friend said he sounded American. This American sounding man proceeded to ask the boy to locate a particular woman in Jerusalem, and get her away from some guy. Didn’t tell my friend HOW to find her, Just to find her and somehow free her from the influence of a dude she was involved with, to her detriment…I got the impression she played some role in the balance of forces, or something, but know nothing about her.
So – my little friend did. I have no idea how, but he found the woman and managed to separate her from the bad hombre in question.
I had been aware of none of this as it was going on, of course.
So the kid is in the phone booth again and the phone rings, and it’s the same American sounding man who had addressed him by name and given him that assignment.
He thanks my friend, congratulates him, and asks him if he would join forces with his group of warriors, because some shit was coming down the pike. At which point, my savvy Kazakh boy magician asks, “Who the fuck ARE you and why should I do anything for you???” At which point the mysterious phone guy says, “Why don’t you ask your friend, Victoria, if you should fight with us?” At which point my young friend called me and requested to speak with me in person.
I took in the boy’s story as we sat under the blue canvas umbrella outside that cafe on Emek Refaim (“Valley of the Giants,” as mentioned in the book of Genesis) and after a couple of minutes broke the silence that had descended between us like a delicate balloon, a silence unique to the liminal state that one enters when intentionally taking a certain fork in the road… “Yes.” I thought he should agree to join the cause, to fight with the unknown dude on the phone’s band of magical warriors. It had not been all that long since I had been more or less immersed in that world, so while it did, absolutely, blow my mind, the part of me that just automatically kicked into those gears was not far away.
“What’s that sound?”
A muffled, irregular, percussive rhythm – like a persistent yet barely dripping faucet, seemed to originate somewhere on the other side of the wall. Rather than the thin ping of a leaky tap, however, this was a thump… thump … thumping that, though faint, came and went from the wall nearest to the bed.
I had two high quality rubber balls that I used for my spine. Got them from my physical therapist and rolled around on the floor with them under my back. They were the perfect combination of soft and hard; infinitely more comfortable and effective than the cheaper, denser substitutes I’d just purchased because – I couldn’t find my good ones. I kept them in a basket under the nightstand, but they were gone. I Looked everywhere.
“Seriously – what IS that??” I asked, a few days later.
My husband heard it, too.
“When the brothers were here they had some kind of business with a group of monks, or something,” he said. “And the monks were looking after some kids, some boys. I think the brothers gave them those balls to play with.”
The brothers had requested use of our apartment for a few days, not long before. For what purpose I had no idea, but they were free-floating masters on a mission and if they needed our place, so be it. It was understood that the monks and their fosterlings were.. not physical. I could only imagine what kind of work the brothers were doing with a group of astral Benedictines, or whatever.
So they’d managed to transport my deceptively special and very physical, genuine rubber balls into another dimension, and now these kids (I envisioned some kind of bucolic, phantom 19th century Boys Town in sackcloth) were innocently playing catch against my wall from another plane.
Except A) The noise was kind of getting old, and B) Those were my good balls.
“They gave them my good balls? Without asking?”
Seemed presumptuous, but I felt terrible asking for them back. I figured I could make a trade, however.
“I’m so sorry! But I need those rubber balls for my back!” I called out in the middle of my living room. “I have others here that are just as good for playing with; you can have those and keep them forever!!”
I apologized repeatedly and urged them to take the substitute balls, which I carefully placed in the center of the Persian rug in the middle of the room, before we went to sleep. The next morning I noticed that the pink rubber balls that had gone missing were now resting against the bookshelf.
The sound stopped.
But the other, seemingly identical balls that I’d put out for the boys the night before were still there. Several times I called out, begging the boys, or their monks, to come get them. I even bounced one against the wall myself several times, to demonstrate their excellent bouncability.
They never took them. I was mortified.
I noticed, also, that my copy of the collected works of Theresa of Avila had been pulled out from its place on the shelf.
I’d purchased it from the Franciscan Bookstore on 34th St a few years earlier, when I was still acting. I’d been cast in a production of Agnes of God and had catapulted headlong into a trance-like obsession with mystic nuns. One night, during early rehearsals, I recall walking down 13th St, when I tentatively allowed myself to acknowledge a desire that knocked on the trap door of my innermost heart: to manifest a stigmata. So utterly submerged was I in that other world that it didn’t occur to me in the slightest to examine such a thought (though I did experience a vague twinge of embarrassment, which I also did not examine.) When a shooting star arched across the West Village skyline as if in response to my inner dialogue, however, embarrassment instantly gave way to a secret thrill.
I knew basically nothing about Theresa of Avila; was drawn to the book by an intense, instinctive impulse. I took it home, read one or two pages at most, felt weird and never so much as looked at it again.
But when I saw those two rubber balls, which I now sorely regretted asking to be returned, nestled on the floor by the bookshelf, I noticed that book I’d purchased with such numinous anticipation years before was now sticking out, as if someone had begun to remove it, but stopped. I figured the monks were perusing my library and Theresa caught their eye.
But that was not the reason, entirely.
It would be a few years more, before I understood why.
I had to return to the Mount of Olives.
To walk there and back would take the day; it was twelve miles from where I lived and no buses would run until sundown. So much of Jerusalem is orthodox that even people with cars travel mostly by foot on Shabbat, if they go out at all.
Concerned neighbors and the few acquaintances I had by that time warned me against going alone. A single woman in that part of the Old City was a target for abuses ranging from the offensive to life threatening.
But I was a street smart, big city girl on a mission, and it was fueled by a ferocious obsession with my Ultimate Right to be there. Buoyed by faith and driven by compulsion, nothing would get in the way of my bittersweet adventure.
I’d taken the small apartment on Antigonus Street just weeks before, and those late summer days were soaked in a heavy unction of grief and hope and destiny. I planned to sit on that immortal hill and let it wash over me.
I was in shock, and that’s all I could think of.
I kept my pace brisk, my armor on and my senses primed. Playing it pretty much by ear, I’d been there once, had a good sense of direction and was confident that I would find it without much trouble.
After an hour or two I pressed through Damascus Gate, its massive fortress doors held open for the swarm of fanny-packed tourists, fast walking, poker-faced merchants in jellabiyas, sweltering Hasids in fur hats and black wool suited to 19th century European winters and other assorted locals that jammed those historic streets that time of year.
I walked past ancient remnants of limestone walls framed against pale, rippling grasses and the impossibly blue sky of Jerusalem, golden in sunlight. A skinny Arab boy in shorts that matched the tawny landscape herded goats; they wove in and out of the ruins to my left, as I wound my way around the far edge of the City of David.
The high desert sun reflected off the cobblestones; cool strings of sweat snaked down my sides.
I clocked miles, half conscious of the inner compass guiding me to that shady hillside overlooking the city, dense with lore and olive trees, the soil stony with olive pits, the whole of Jerusalem spread out below.
I became aware of someone following me. A man. Every turn I made he followed.
I pretended not to care and that my glance backwards to see him was unintentional.
He wore a long, dark blue robe with the standard black and white keffiyeh wrapped around his head.
The warrioress in me directed my steps.
I turned left. He turned left. I pretended to know exactly where I was going, and walked faster.
I turned right. He turned right.
The path wound gradually upwards, the crowd of the Old City now far in the distance as I drew closer to my destination.
I turned left again and the man behind me also turned left. No one else was in sight. My system surged with adrenaline as I instantly mapped out moves.
Let him pass me, I thought. I won’t play this role. I was afraid that if he followed me all the way up Olive Mount I would be in genuine danger.
So I stopped and waited for him to catch up, letting him see that I Had Attitude. This badass sister was making her stand.
And he did catch up to me.
His kind, elderly face, which I had not seen in the hasty check over my shoulder, conveyed both compassion for my fear and assurance that he intended no harm. He looked into my eyes with the serene intensity of a loving brother with secrets of his own.
Shalom, he said.
Salaam, I answered back.
With a sweeping gesture of welcome he drew my gaze to the right of where we stood, as if to say, “Look.”
I noticed we were near a sunken church yard of some kind…Rows of ancient olive trees, thick and knotted, spread out beyond closed iron gates. How could I not have seen that?
“My name is Daoud,” he said, and motioned for me to follow him down the short path that lead there. “I am the gatekeeper at the Garden of Gesthemene.
Whenever you wish, you may come and I will let you in. When it is closed, I will let you in and you can have the garden to yourself, with no one to disturb you.” He bowed.
He spoke with slow, calm reverence, each word reverberating like a tender note in a dream-like melody of shared understanding. His eyes shone out from coppery folds as he smiled gently, searching my face for agreement.
The stalwart virago that had sprung full grown from the head of my dying soul, the exoskeleton I clung to lest I have no means to stand upright at all, dissolved.
I felt around six years old.
He pulled out a set of appropriately huge old iron skeleton keys, opened the gates and walked in.
He turned to face me and bowed again.
“Please come whenever you want.
I will always let you in.”
Years ago, early in our marriage, before the whole soul retrieval ritual with Bethany, Angus, Lynnee and the sorcerer (who I will not mention by name, though I believe he is still to be considered healed, and an ally) I put out, to the Universal Spirit, a heartfelt intention to genuinely understand what motivated people to look to ‘The Dark Arts’ for power or gratification. For, try as I might, I was simply unable to grasp it in any meaningful way and felt that lack of understanding to be a considerable gap in my knowledge. My ignorance, a real inability to comprehend the whole ‘dark magic’ appeal, felt to be a liability that was important to correct.
To understate the obvious, the expression, “Be careful what you ask for,” springs to mind.
Shortly after placing that intention, as I ran some errands on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning in April, I stood on the corner of 5th Ave. and University place and quietly rejoiced in an exhilarating sense of grace. I felt whole and strong and radiant beneath a cloudless, brilliant blue sky, drinking in the deliciously clean spring air that carried gentle notes of earthy perfume from the daffodils blooming in the church garden across the street. I basked in the unusual privacy I seemed to enjoy in that heightened moment in time, for – though normally a busy intersection on Saturday morning, filled with students and Greenwich Village thoroughfare – absolutely no one was perceivable around me within a radius of a block or more.
I turned to my right and saw a single paperback book lying by itself in the wire metal trash can on the corner. Not one other thing was in there, not even a gum wrapper – just this one book. I couldn’t see the title, as it was lying face down, and too curious to leave it alone I reached down to turn it over and take a look, whereupon I dropped it and stepped back in shock. It was a clean and relatively new copy of ‘The Satanic Bible,’ by Anton LeVey. After a momentary adjustment I laughed to myself, thinking, “What a perfect place for that.”
I was familiar with it to a degree, had seen it before, and considered it – apart from being obviously disturbed – juvenile and stupid. Still, I wrestled with the impulse to retrieve it, remembering my explicit request for knowledge of the psycho-emotional and metaphysical reasons for people’s attraction to ‘the dark side.’ I hesitated with some trepidation, then thought (I THINK it was my own thought!) that it was a dis-empowered attitude to let fear decide what I would do, and I chose to take the action. With a warrior’s resolve I stepped over, reached in again and picked that book up out of the trash can. And, though I was not entirely conscious of it in that instant, I heard – on what now seems to have been an astral level – an assured laughter when I did so.
I took the book home and left it on the coffee table.
Now, at the time I had a considerable library in the apartment of metaphysical books of different kinds, none of which you had ever expressed much interest in, despite my efforts to share some of them with you and – though incomprehensible to me – in spite of your profound psychic gifts and obvious (to me) reincarnational background as an adept. For, although our years in the heart of the magical world were in their earliest stages, your ability as a trance channel and the dimension of experience which opened in accord with that had begun to manifest; the arc of destiny which we were to share was being drawn. Nevertheless, you expressed little desire to pursue such subjects in your normal, waking state.
However, as if permeated with some nefarious, etheric pheromone, that one book which I retrieved from the garbage on that fateful day appeared to exert an irresistible, magnetic appeal for you. You went right for it with an odd, animated zeal and – although a sad, lame and generally unimpressive composition – your attraction to that book was such that you clung to it with an attachment that was alarming in the extreme. After a few days I literally wrested it from your hands and threw it away.
Do you remember any of this?