Is she promised to the night?
I had to wear all white in a Shiva temple in Bali recently and it felt so damn weird. People were saying how nice it looked, but I felt … unnatural. Exposed. Luminous! As though somehow needing to remedy the situation, my friend Tania(fellow burlesque dancer and accomplice in crime) and I snuck out of the chanting at one point and giggled under the frangipani trees like naughty school girls as she showed me her rebellious black and red heart underwear. Why is white more spiritual anyway? How has it come to be associated with innocence? Purity? Goodness? Babies and brides? I see a white dress and I want to paint it black… or at least dirty it up a bit.
I guess I see the blank canvas ready to be painted upon. Cliched as it is, there is no denying that white is inviting, it’s beauty is in it’s subtlety, as it incorporates all colour and yet appears to have none. White is open to possibility in a way black resists. Black is already full. But white is there waiting for something or someone to claim it, define it, shape it. Look at Snow White, now she’d be pretty inconsequential without her hair black as ebony and blood red lips. It is upon the white but in the detail, or opposition, that we define, create and make meaning.
The High Priestess in the Mythic Tarot deck is represented as Persephone, the beautiful maiden stolen by Hades into the Underworld. Her mother, the Earth Goddess Demeter, mourns the loss of her daughter so severely that the land itself begins to ‘die’, and we experience the descent into winter. It is only in spring when her daughter is returned that Demeter blesses the earth once again with white and pink blossom.
But Persephone’s experience in the Underworld has changed her forever. Innocence has been replaced, or at least balanced, by experience. She is only now ready to be High Priestess, to stand between the pillars of white and black. As a child of innocence, she was vulnerable as a little fluffy lamb… of course the wolf was going to come eat her up. And in her turn, of course she is going to eat the red berries, taste of the pomegranate seeds, which will transform her forever. Experience comes not from book learning but through the senses, through taste, by taking into ourselves the seeds of knowledge. We all know about Eve and the apple, innocence, sex, and snakes. So just like Snow White or Red Riding Hood, it is in the consummation of sex and blood, all that runs in our veins, that Persephone awakens to her power. Her death is not literal but symbolic, as she rises again, returns to earth, or is kissed awake from her glass coffin.
Spring is just so Persephone, all these blossoms and buds and virgin green leaves acquiver with life! For me, it is especially significant as I emerge from an underworld where true transformation has taken place. For the duration of winter I released the black blood. Be sure when that happens you know there is no seeing, no vision of what you will be or where you will go when you emerge. It is a matter of trusting the process, which this time I finally did. I floated down the River Styx and did not jump overboard or try and paddle upstream. I realized I am used to the dark now, and that my night vision serves me as a power. Instead of whiskey I drank pomegranate juice. I surrendered myself utterly and I was picked up and carried every single day, and at night I fell asleep in the arms of an angel.
Last week I stepped into role of High Priestess and took a ritual on the roof of the Witch’s House for Spring Equinox. At one point I was so high I had all 21 of us howling at the full moon in Aries. As our cries grew louder, I laughed to think what the al-fresco diners down on Hardware Lane might be thinking, with this howling drowning out the little jazz quartets. Wonderful to be in a time and place where I can practice my witchcraft without persecution! I read the Charge of the Goddess in honour of those who have gone before us and suffered, been silenced and sacrificed. In circle, we raise energy so that we might emerge into spring once more, into new life and a clear innocence, having faced our darkness during the winter. Whenever I do magic, I feel like a child again, playing in the dirt, making up stories and cities, heroes and villains, calling in the faeries and the dragons. The circle becomes the sacred space, the white, the blank canvas. Then we witches are the artists, drawing down the Moon and the brilliant coloured stars to make our pictures, our portraits.