BY ANDREA LAMBERT
I am a good witch. Schooled in the Wiccan Rule of Three. All positive and negative you put out into the world comes back to you threefold. Karma is real. Previous spells were all sparkly fairy dust blessings. Self-empowerment. Healing. Seances. Solitary sex magick.
No one can remain a May Queen forever. Persephone’s spring maiden matures to Hecate’s icy crone. There are times when the necessity of self-defense of one’s bodily autonomy and home safety calls for desperate measures. I crossed over to the dark side once. I pray I am never driven to that again.
"Bless me father, for I have sinned," but I‘m not a Christian. I'm a Wiccan. "Forgive me Persephone, Queen of the May, for committing black magic among the Beltane flowers."
The very next day karmic negativity returned threefold. As I knew it would. I almost got fired from a magazine due to editorial changes. Saw a cockroach leftover from Hollywood on my stove. Upset and exhausted my mother and sister with frantic texts. The day afterwards I turned my broom back right side up. Replaced the half-burnt black candle with a cheerful yellow one. Prayed for the cosmic balance of the universe to be restored. Prayed three foreboding reprisals were sufficient karma.
I will tell you the story. I live alone in a house that has been passed down in my family since it was built. My parents are my landlords. Amazing blessing, but anything given can also be taken away. My 70-year old father’s benevolent compassion verges on reckless senility at times. In his baby boomer naïveté he still trusts people. Believes people are good. Can be helped. A beautiful sort of innocence. To my cynical Generation X experience vulnerable compassion leads nowhere but ruin.
I used to believe itinerant homeless men could be helped. Saved. That my privilege came with responsibility to rescue lost souls. Along series of live-in boyfriends later? Some who I was engaged to? Supporting? Who drove me to relapse? Harder drugs than previous? The police came. I was beaten. Told to file a domestic violence police report at the clinic where I went for a broken rib. Strangled over drunken whispers about taking my body to the river. At forty, I decided solitary celibacy was my only option for future survival. I have a cat and a vibrator, I’m good.
I now realize being a mentally ill women with an addictive abusive past is a Titanic lifeboat situation. My only path to survival is a single set of footsteps. Shoving Leonardo DiCaprio off that lifeboat. I didn’t stick around AA long enough to sponsor for that reason. Relapse city, baby.
You can imagine my alarm when my well-meaning landlord father floated this suggestion: His friend was "in a bad way." Could he park his trailer outside my home? This strange older man I have never met. We were Facebook friends. Chatted online once. He sent me his half-finished novel. From Facebook, I knew he lost his medical license over opioids. I know from his comments on my posts he could be romantically interested in me. "Fascinated by me," as he said in a lengthy passionate comment about my paintings.
My father thought his companionship would "enrich my life." Bullshit. How about destroy my precarious momentary peace like every other man always has? When something happens enough times you are wise to learn that lesson. On the battlefield of love? I learned every man I am not related to is a potential abusive addict alcoholic rapist.
"Make better choices next time," the locksmith said. When he changed the locks on my apartment. After I kicked out that detox fling turned booze relapse. Good choices looks like a spinster cat lady.
2013’s detox, rehab and recovery via AA had many vital lessons. All faith in the innate goodness of humanity was utterly destroyed. "Keep Coming Back," and the 12 Steps traps you in the predatory recovery industry. A big business whose success is built on your failure. Everyone is an alcoholic addict teetering on the verge of relapse. Be especially afraid of the so-called sober people whom you are instructed to trust. They are the most dangerous exploiters of them all. No one can be trusted anymore. But hey, at least now I’m sober. Totally worth it.
Painful lessons. Life is pain. Titanic America sinks into opioids, riots and fascism. I am alone on lifeboat Medicare. Marooned on the solitary island of total sobriety. Anyone else on this island it would get right Frye Festival Lord of The Flies up in here.
A big lesson of recovery was if someone mentions drug connections at all they were really a raging addict. If an unemployed defrocked opioid doctor had keys to my home? To use the bathroom and kitchen? As of course my naively trusting father would supply him. How long until my TV and jewelry were hocked? Oxycontin dealt out of the side yard? Drunken nighttime visits? Rape? Unwanted pregnancy? Domestic violence? Best-case scenario would be a simple relapse. Or paying for his meals out of my Disability check. He could put me in an institution after seeing how batshit I am so he could take over this lovely home.
Resistance would result in eviction. Either for insubordination? Or calling 911 over domestic violence. There is no possible way that arrangement could end well for me.
This dangerous suggestion was what drove me to the dark side. My "Absolutely not!" emphatic to my landlord parents, I still felt in mortal peril.
Decided the full arsenal was required. Witchcraft. A black magick banishment spell. I would protect my land and bodily autotomy. Even if that meant I made an unholy deal with the Gods, Goddesses and ghosts. I would be as scorched earth forever alone if that would permit me to me survive. When I turned 40 I resolved to be a celibate recluse to preserve sobriety and avoid further rape. Sacrifice was familiar company. I had to salt the earth so no weeds could grow.
Rainy May afternoon. I put a black fishnet teddy with upside down crosses over my nude body. Removed the cherry blossom flower crown from my altar. Put on the serious business etsy witch hat. Routine spring sabbat magick was over. This threat required the most powerful and dangerous spell I have ever committed. The nuclear PTSD adrenalin of terror gave me the will, need and strength to do dark magick. When your back is up against the wall, you bite.
I swept my witchcraft room with the besom broom. Turned it upright in the corner to drive away unwanted company. Set tarot cards from the Dame Darcy Mermaid deck on my altar: The Hermit. Strength. Carved the words "SOLITARY HEALING," into a black chime candle. It was the first time I used a black candle. The loss of innocence is inevitable. The question is only when. My sexual innocence and faith in love, people, goodness and hope were lost long ago. Now I would lose my magical innocence.
Maleficent lost her fairy wings when raped. Went into exile. She’s only a heroine in the recent feminist remake. Traumatic betrayal hardens your heart. To avoid being raped yet again? Like Disney’s evil queens I banished this defenseless man from Reno, Nevada, and my father’s heart. At the price of my own exile from from all human society. Like sobriety, it felt totally worth the cost.
I am a mentally ill widow of a domestic partnership. In a rural hick town where I know only extended family. I live outside of society already. I hide inside my House of the Rising Sun. I’m afraid of getting shot in a hate crime by these Trump-emboldened yokels. I see them buying alcohol at all hours of the day. I see their slot machines at every grocery store by the pawnshops. I already cower at the doorbell in fear of guillotines. Pitchforks. Pence’s queer quarantine Feds. The mailman. Ask me why I live in fear? Given the circumstances, how could I not? What Schizoaffective doesn’t? If you’re not terrified in this Trumpcalypse dystopian hellscape you must be too drunk to read the news.
I lit incense and a white tea light. Lifted the candle in my palm to the four directions: North, East, South and West. Invoked the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Called upon Artemis, Virgin Goddess of the Hunt. Called upon the ghost of my dead wife. Female Goddess and Ghost veered into Dianic Wicca. I didn’t want to suck any further dick so the Horned God would have to sit this one out.
I sealed the circle with blessed salt water and incense. Spring rain poured down outside. I returned to the white velvet pillow before the altar. Turned to page 40 of Silver RavenWolf’s, Hedgewitch: Spells, Crafts & Rituals for Natural Magick. Followed the spell formula. Casting spells out of books is akin to algebra. Ann Moura’s (Aoumiel)’s Green Witchcraft supplies me the basic circle casting ritual formula. I then plug whatever spell variable applies into the middle of the equation. Add my own flourishes as needed. Never thought that Junior High math class would be so useful.
I pressed my fingertips together in double sign of the horns. Tried to relax. Difficult. Closed my eyes. Took deep breaths. Went to a still point. Mentally surrounded myself with protective white light. I was about to release the dogs of war. Release the Kraken. I hoped collateral damage would spare me. A risk I felt I had to take. I lit the black candle.
"Thank you for the peaceful healing two months I have had so far in my House of the Rising Sun," I said in gratitude. Aligned myself with spirit. Envisioned the cherry tree in the backyard alit with blossoms. Focused hard on this secret garden tree I healed beneath.
"There is one power, which is within and without," I said. "I call upon Artemis, Virgin Goddess of the hunt! She set dogs to tear rapacious men limb from limb when they spied her nude bath. May her ferocity protect my celibacy. I call upon the ghost of Katie Jacobson! She drove me home from a party where my ex tried to punch me. Rescued me from that abusive relationship with her healing lesbian love. I invoke Artemis and Katie’s female protection from dangerous men." I pointed at the upright broom.
"As I will, so mote it be," I said. "I desire [name redacted] be banished from both Reno, Nevada, and my father’s heart. This man will never live in my house, on the grounds or in Reno at all. May my father see this man’s needs a lesser priority then my safety. Let [name redacted] be hereby banished!"
I watched the black candle burn down halfway. The carved word solitary disappeared into melted wax. I envisioned living alone in this house with a succession of cats. Dying alone. A future cat eating my face for weeks before I was found by the rotting smell and piles of mail. Dream life. Better that than death by a strange man’s hand. Or eviction for resistance to rape. Priorities. Overcome with intensity and pain, I wept.
Bargaining is one of the phases of grief. In my grief over losing my domestic partner by suicide? Leaving Los Angeles? Abandoning all faith in humanity? I bargained with Goddess and Ghost. To survive and heal at the price of all future companionship. I knew there would be a karmic backlash. The Rule of Three dictates. I steeled myself to accept whatever it was as worth the price of what I had to do.
Andrea Lambert wrote Jet Set Desolate (Future Fiction London: 2009), Lorazepam & the Valley of Skin: Extrapolations on Los Angeles (valeveil: 2009) and the chapbook G(u)ilt (Lost Angelene, 2011). Her writing appears in 3:AM Magazine, Fanzine, Entropy, Angel’s Flight Literary West, HTMLGiant, Queer Mental Health and elsewhere. Anthologies: Golden State 2017: The Best New Writing From California,Haunting Muses, Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices, The L.A. Telephone Book Vol. 1, 2011-2012,Off the Rocks Volume #16: An Anthology of GLBT Writing and elsewhere. CalArts MFA. Website: andreaklambert.com. Twitter: @AndreaLamber.