Several years ago (like about 25? Give or take one or two.) after I started practicing I started to wonder if my grandmother would approve. She had taught me all the family “ways” while still attending our church every Sunday. As far as it looked she was a good Presbyterian until she started showing you how to talk to trees and whales and how to do “special” stitching etc.
The night before I was to go to a Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house I had a dream. It was my grandmother’s voice and all it said was to go upstairs and pull out the first drawer on the left of her chest of drawers and take what was on top and the dream ended.
At this point in time my mother was cheerfully telling everyone at the church I grew up in that I was now worshipping the devil and that she hoped to convert me back. She was so desperate that at my father’s funeral several years later she had the minister give an altar call because she knew all my pagan friends were coming. Presbyterians are not really big on altar calls especially at funerals. We know how that turned out.
When they closed my grandmother’s house after her death and Grandpa came to live with us a lot of her things came too. Mom did not get along with her mother. In fact, one of her curses at me was that I was just like her mother and never meant in a good way. So when Grandma’s things came Mom never touched them to even clean them out. They were moved in and there they sat. It’s why I didn’t find the crystal Grandma left me until after my Dad died and we cleaned out our house. I had to wait almost 30 years to get what she promised me but anyway. Mom wouldn’t even look for the things that Grandma had made clear were mine. Her set of blue willow ware, her crystal and her divination tools, when we found the willow ware in the house closing every piece was broken and the divination tools never surfaced at all.
This heavily carved small chest of drawers sat all alone in the upstairs hallway and no one was allowed near it.
Knowing that if I asked my mother for anything out of it I would get told ‘no’ no matter what the request was I excused myself to the upstairs bathroom and turned on the water and went to look in the chest. What was nestled in a hanky with Grandma’s initials? A tiny cauldron, it’s the most perfect little black cauldron. I slipped it in my pocket and went back down to finish dinner.
I learned two things. Grandma approved and that yet again Mom didn’t pay attention to me if I really didn’t want her to, that ‘please ignore me spells’ worked on her.
The Spring of ’76 we were running Outdoor Ed camps for private schools all springs which led to a big discovery. On the north end of camp there were several flat boulders that held metates. (A metate is a grain or seed grinding stone, in this case acorn meal.) There were also holes that had been hollowed out as storage for acorns next to the grinding stones. Some boys from camp were playing where they shouldn’t have been in the ravine where one of the streams flowed through that was quite dense with brush. It was off limits due to rattlesnakes but they went there anyway and made a discovery. They found more metates and they also found pictographs and carving on some of the large stones above the creek.
The next day one of the women from the Cahuilla tribe was coming to visit so we showed her the boys find and it promptly went off limits again while the local tribe came to investigate. They decided that it would be kept secret because it was on protected private land. What we didn’t know was that within a year the camp would close but that is a whole ‘nother tale.
Knowing it was off limits to the greater world didn’t mean it was off limits to the staff and we fascinated as was the D, anthropologist/storyteller/ shaman for the tribe and ran their tribal museum at the time, and she would come up just to visit. She continued to do this through the summer and since she was in her 80’s we asked her to always take one of us with her as they weren’t in an easy place to get to and we were afraid she’d fall. They were down a really steep hillside.
The site consisted of an upright slab with red handprints and drawings of deer in red and other small drawings. This stone was a pretty large slab facing the south into the sun. On a slab facing east was the only carving and it was of a very large snake. And just below that was a sort of cave made by two smaller upright stone and a very large stone that laid across the two small upright stones which made a cave of about 5 ft deep and at one end it was about 2 ½ feet tall and then sloped down lower toward the back. It had been totally blackened from fire on the inside and had a nasty feeling to it. One of those places you instinctively know not to go in but D, our anthropologist from the tribe was totally enthralled with it. G, R and I wanted no part of it and we were her usual escorts. The cave at some point had had a fire in it so intense that it cracked one of the large side rocks that held the stone above.
D had come up to visit and was doing workshops with the girls at the north stones and showing how acorns were ground and prepared for eating and after lunch some of us who were her big fans would get her talking and telling stories. That day, she kept wanting to go down to the cave but none of us were free at the time and wouldn’t be until later and she said she would wait. We shouldn’t have believed her.
That summer the Asst Camp Director, R and I had started reading Carlos Castaneda’s books and they were the topic of much discussion among us and with D who wasn’t sure about them. So we were already primed toward the kind of events that were about to occur.
Around 3 pm I noticed D had disappeared from the stones. I could see that area from Arts and Crafts and got a really intense feeling of something awful happening and took off to find R and G who also had the same feeling and were already moving in the direction of the road and we took off running for the cave and found D almost to the area on the road above. And she told us to come along, she was going with or without us and that we were being stupid. She had decided to go by the creek and climb up from there and so we went with her. We spent some time sitting below the large upright slab talking about the various symbols. D’s theory was that it was a coming of age spot for girls of the tribe that were using the site as a summer camping area. That makes a lot of sense from the size of the handprints on the rock. All seemed normal and I think we all felt like we had been a little nuts for jumping to a conclusion.
We were all looking at the stone when D disappeared around the back side of the cave and crawled in the smaller end. This can’t have been easy because she was elderly and not a small woman but she said she felt compelled to sit inside the cave. Once she had gotten herself in there she started to feel intense pressure on her chest and to have trouble breathing. So she yelled and got our attention and of course we dove for the larger size entrance just behind us. The three of us tried to get her to come out. R even tried to pull her out, he was a fairly big guy and he couldn’t get her to move. She said she couldn’t and wouldn’t move but she thought she was having a heart attack and couldn’t get her breath and that she was having intense feelings of evil from whomever the last man to use it was and that he was really pissed.
While she was relating this to us the three of us found out we could not move. It felt like someone was pinning us to the earth. I remember trying to force myself to my feet so that I could run and I just couldn’t move. It was one of scariest and weird sensations I’ve ever felt. Like my legs had been cemented to the earth. Later G and R said they had felt the same way. I finally broke free and started to run up the hill and down the road for main camp to get help. The other two still couldn’t move not could D.
G and R said it was one of the strangest things they had ever seen. They told me I was off the ground going up the hillside. I don’t remember that, I just remember running like hell and how difficult it seemed to move at first. The farther I got away the easier it was to run. As I reached Main Camp my boss was running to the camp van with the keys to come and get us. They had been eating dinner when she said she felt me yelling for her to come to us. I hadn’t even started to yell at that point I was running too hard.
I jumped in the moving van and we hauled down the road to above the site. Somehow after I broke free D had too and R and G were helping her up the hillside when we got there. I don’t remember how we got the van turned around but we did and hauled ass to camp where we had an ambulance already on the way from the forest station.
They got D down to the hospital to be treated for what everyonewas sure was a heart attack. She had all the symptoms. We got an anxiously awaited phone call from D a few hours later. Could she come back to camp in the morning, the hospital says there is nothing wrong with her??!!
They had told her after she had a completely normal EKG that her heart showed no signs of trauma nor did any of her blood work. So they let her go home and told her to take it easy for a few days so of course she wanted to come back to camp.
I don’t think any of us ever went near the cave after that for the rest of the summer. Not even D wanted to do it. She said she had had enough of whoever had been there before. We’d go see the pictographs and I went and drew them. Still have my sketchbook but no way was I ever going in that cave again.
I was thinking about the day I found out I was claimed. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s when I became a part of So Cal pagan community there seemed to be a lot more times to gather and there were several camping events that used to occur in our local mountains such as Pacific Circle and COA had a camping event and there were several small ones along with pagan festivals like Harvest Moon and FERALS monthly concerts and gatherings.
I was invited to one with the rest of the Pallas Society Board and Lorraine Covenant, two groups that sadly no longer exist, at least not in the LA area. There may be some form of Lorraine Covenant up in Seattle where the HP moved. Anyway a group run by the Crowleys coven put on a campout that I was invited to and I jumped at the chance because it was across the road from my most beloved camp. What I didn’t count on was that the spirit of camp would claim ownership of me.
Our camp had a protective spirit known to the camp as the Old Squaw and yes, I know that isn’t a politically correct term but the camp had been founded in the 30’s and that was what she made herself known as to the first campers. I have since been told her real name in a dream and told to keep it close, so I will.
We told her story every session about her protective spirit and about how she saved Don Benito Wilson’s life when he was mauled by a bear. The same Wilson, Mt Wilson is named after about how he allegedly gifted her with the land. About how the trappers came in the early 1900’s and left again when they didn’t catch anything because she told the animals to go away. Camp still has a national historical monument in that log cabin and the trading post a hundred yards away that they had to abandon.
It’s amusing that they couldn’t catch anything because that canyon has more wildlife in per square inch of any camp I ever worked at. We had Mt lions, bears, fox, squirrels, ground squirrels, rabbits, bob cats, mice, kangaroo rats, bats, mule deer and raccoons and those are just the ones I remember seeing.
For two years after we stopped working there we had rituals after camp was over for the summer to honour her because the new camp director wouldn’t allow her story to be told so we organized a campout to honour and tell her story. The 2 years they wouldn’t allow the story we heard from the staff that all kinds of things went wrong and that the summer was just not as easy as it had been before. So a some of the old staff and friends and our HP and group went up and I told her story. At one of those she actually appeared behind me in while I was telling. I still remember my partner at the times white face as she pointed behind me. This person was not prone to believing in ghosts let alone seeing one normally only heard of in tales so that was pretty amusing but my first realization was when she touched me.
A cold hand stroked my face like a mother or fond relative does and I about jumped out of my skin and I have to admit I squealed until I figured out what it was and the people pointing behind me and babbling that she was standing there. I apologized and went on with her story very conscious of my audience corporeal and non-corporeal. I think that also may be the last time I did a non-reading storytelling too. (Since I was the only one standing on that side of the campfire I knew it wasn’t any one there.
When I worked there I would sit out in my Arts and Crafts lodge and the door would open on one side and then a few moments later the door on the other side would open and close and there was never any wind when this occurred and I used to greet her just as I would anyone else coming there to visit. There were cold spots in camp as you were walking around in the dark that there were no explainable reason for. It would be normal temp a few feet away and it almost always happened on the road at least for me. And except for the summer we had Peter Pervert spying on us the camp always felt unusually safe.
Anyway, a few years later I was attending the campout and was about to attend the Circle for the evening when I started to get the feeling that I shouldn’t go but I couldn’t figure out why I should feel that way. (Sometimes I can be really dense.) I put myself in the East because that was where I almost always stood in the Circle when I was new and felt comfortable there when I felt the hard compulsion to leave right as the Circle was starting to be cast. I looked at my HP and shook my head and excused myself.
I started walking away and felt like I was being pushed and pushed hard away from the ritual. I was being pushed to the stream that ran through the campground. The next thing I knew I was rolling down the bank and into the water and the words, “You are mine and you will not do that here!” rang in my head.
It was clear that I was still on HER land and she wasn’t having any of me attending a Circle not dedicated to her. I belonged to Her and she was really clear about it. She seemed to think rolling in the water and mud a fitting thing.
It also may have been a reference to something I had done before I left camp my last summer and at the time I wasn’t a practicing pagan and would have not known what that was but I went on my last night to the stream that ran into our lake and washed myself in the cold water of the stream and wished the camp and land goodbye and I’ve never told anyone I did that before. I made sure I wet my hands and feet and heart and head and at the time it felt right. So think the roll into the stream was a reminder of whose I was and what I had done.
Somehow it was clear that anytime I was on her land or near it I was hers and I was not to forget that ever!
The Celts were known having local goddesses and gods that were not known out of the areas they protected and now I know that they aren’t the only ones that had that relationship with the spirits of their lands. And I know who I belong to.
Like I said for Faeries last week, it’s hard not to believe in ghosts when you grow up with them around you. When we moved to our new house when I was 9, I inherited a beds from a recently deceased great aunt but she was never a problem and I loved the bed. It was a four poster mahogany high thing that I was convinced pirates were hiding under. I got over that but I couldn’t get over the man who would stand at the end of my bed near one of the posts and not moving for hours while I lay there terrified. What I didn’t know was that my baby sister who moved into my room a few years later could see him too. For years she wouldn’t go to sleep unless someone sat with her. It was a chore that was a pain in the ass until I got old enough to not be home when she was going to bed.
The man would just stand there and not do anything. You couldn’t quite see through him and when he first appeared I thought he was a real living man. Finally I got used to him and would just fall back asleep. My sister told me as an adult that she used to see him outside the bathroom door.
It wasn’t until I was grown I figured out who he was. The house had been built in the 1920’s by a husband and wife with 3 daughters. In fact, the house was designed by the wife and it’s the only house I’ve ever been in that had enough storage space because every room had a huge closet and our room had a closet inside the closet and some were as big as bedrooms and that doesn’t count the closet under the stairs or the attic that ran the length of the house. Anyway, I finally realized he was just watching his daughters sleep and was still doing it with us.
He also used to walk up and down the stairs at night which could be a bit disturbing when your babysitting your sister and she’s upstairs and you’re downstairs. It was a really big house too and one stair always creaked if you stepped on it so you KNEW someone was walking on the stairs.
We also had relatives that would come and visit and still do. My grandmother liked to spook my mom after she died. I was working as a Girl Scout professional and we were having one of the first Girl Guides, Wendy come and visit our council and we were going to save “God save the Queen.” And while I knew all the words my boss wanted to see it written down. So I called home to see if my mom could find it in one of our books. (pre-internet, boys and girls, when you actually looked things up in books.) Anyway, mom looked all over and couldn’t find it and made the mistake of saying, where was her mother when she needed her? (Grandma had participated in something in the 1890’s for a royal visit to Toronto. Dead silence fell on the phone. So I asked what was wrong. My mom finally replied with a shaking voice. “I think she heard me.” Out of the book mom was holding and had already looked through had fallen a piece of paper in my grandmother’s handwriting, the words to “God save the King.” That was just her sense of humour.
When I was living in Pasadena, a friend came over to practice her energy massage technique and while I was on the massage table I became aware of someone being there and because it felt like a hug I knew who it was, Only one person in my family always gave off the energy of being hugged. He was also a Master Mason and I think he was really intrigued. I didn’t say anything about him being there but my friend finally asked if some one was there so I asked her what it felt like. She said, “ this is going to sound weird but he feels like a hug.” So I told her who it was.
So yes, I believe in ghosts.